British Columbia Publishes Action Plan To Protect Sea Coast From Global Warming Effects

PlanetWatch Staff

British Columbia assesses the effects of climate change and changes in sea level in the coming century.
British Columbia assesses the effects of climate change and changes in sea level in the coming century.

Practical, hands-on reports by government officials advising local communities how to prepare for the effects of global warming are few and far between when compared with the number of doom and gloom global warming studies. But as the reality of global warming implications becomes engrained into our communal psyche, an avalanche of practical, local global warming ‘manuals’ is building up.

If there were such a thing as a blueprint for the perfect global warming manual, the recent action plan by the government of British Columbia, Canada would be a credible candidate. The report, entitled Projected Sea Level Changes for British Columbia in the 21st Century (pdf), prepares coastal communities on how to protect themselves against the effects of climate change by analyzing the anticipated effects at various localized levels.

The province’s Environment Minister, Barry Penner, says the prime factors that will affect >people living on the BC coast will be melting continental glaciers and ice caps, and the warming of the upper ocean. Additionally, the soil in BC is subject to local factors including subsidence and vertical land movements, Penner points out.

The Fraser River Delta and the Haida Gwaii are two areas that are going to be affected most dramatically by sea level rises, which the report’s authors project will have amassed up to 4.33 inches by the year 2100 at Nanaimo and more than 19.68 inches at the mouth of the Fraser River, which passes on to the Bay west of Vancouver before continuing onto the Northern Pacific. No dyke will be resistant to the levels of anticipated changes in sea level.

What's more, the Fraser delta is known for its massive subsidence. Geologists have also revealed in recent decades that rebound of land after the last ice age (more than 10,000 years ago) is still taking place. That’s no mean feat. A tectonic plate known as the Juan de Fuca pushes Vancouver island two to three millimeters down every year.

The potential for serious coastal inundation becomes not a fictional scenario but a frightening possibility. A possibility made even more alarming by the 500 to 600-year frequency of major earthquakes, which cause land to drop as much as to two meters”, according to this report.

Another issue of extreme concern is coastal erosion, which weakens east Graham Island, Haida Gwaii. The government also reports that building developments in areas classified as ‘close to present high tide limits’ run the risk of being hit by extreme weather events at top sea levels.

If you think this is all futurist scare-mongering, think again. The implications of the most recent major ice melt data for the local coastal BC communities are already very clear. For instance, Arctic ice melt reached record levels in 2007 and can be held directly responsible for swamping of an arctic park in Northeast Canada during recent months. The park had until recently always been accessible has turned dangerous for hikers due to the excessive water inflow.

Continental glaciers in the Arctic and Antartica are an immediate threat, the BC government believes. For instance the Antarctic Wilkins Ice Shelf in the ocean is subject to a high degree of melting. It's only attached to a small strip of glacier of 1,640-foot wide, which used to be 62 miles wide in the 1950s.

Penner, who oversees the implementation of a 10-year $100 million flood protection program, says that the study urgently stresses the need for greenhouse gas reductions.


Climate Politics & Policy