‘We need to plan now’

An­napo­lis Royal group or­ga­niz­ing to face im­mi­nent sea level rise chal­lenge

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - BY LAWRENCE POW­ELL THE SPEC­TA­TOR

Res­i­dents in the An­napo­lis Royal area are get­ting or­ga­nized to face the chal­lenge of ris­ing sea lev­els caused by cli­mate change – and that tide is ris­ing a whole lot faster than most peo­ple think.

Ju­dith Luther Wilder presided over a com­mu­nity meet­ing on Feb. 13 and is still amazed and de­lighted how a book dis­cus­sion group mor­phed into a com­mu­nity meet­ing.

Li­brar­ian Dorothy Mac­don­ald had the event sched­uled for the town’s small li­brary at town hall - a book dis­cus­sion held each week on the day the li­brary is closed to the pub­lic. That week Naomi Klein’s books – in­clud­ing This Changes Ev­ery­thing: Cap­i­tal­ism vs. the Cli­mate - were the sub­jects of dis­cus­sion.

But in­ter­est in the topic drew so much re­sponse that the dis­cus­sion was moved to the United Church where about 70 lo­cal res­i­dents packed the pews and lis­tened to lo­cal cli­mate change ex­pert Hague Vaughan speak for al­most an hour with res­i­dents ask­ing ques­tions for an­other hour.

The church it­self has an ac­tion team that deals with en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues and sea level rise and cli­mate change was a nat­u­ral dis­cus­sion topic for the church to host.

Hague Vaughan

For Vaughan, the sub­ject of ris­ing sea lev­els is not new news. In fact, he and oth­ers have been try­ing to get gov­ern­ments to act with very lit­tle ef­fect – es­pe­cially on the sub­jects of mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion. Towns like An­napo­lis Royal are es­pe­cially prone to the early ef­fects of sea level rise.

So Vaughan wrote to ev­ery mayor and war­den from Yar­mouth to Wind­sor on April 4, 2017 telling them that sea level rise due to cli­mate change could be as much as 15.7 inches by 2030.

He re­ceived no re­sponse. Vaughan, who lives in Granville Ferry just across the basin Ecol­o­gist Hague Vaughan and Ju­dith Luther Wilder hosted a com­mu­nity dis­cus­sion on cli­mate change and sea level rise Feb. 13 at the United Church in An­napo­lis Royal. It started as a book group dis­cus­sion at the town’s li­brary but there was so much buzz about the topic that it was moved to a larger venue. About 70 peo­ple at­tended.

from An­napo­lis Royal, isn’t some quack cli­mate change con­spir­acy the­o­rist. He’s a ca­reer ecol­o­gist with a Phd who was a mem­ber of the In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change - the or­ga­ni­za­tion that won the No­bel Peace Prize in 2007. And he was a top sci­en­tist with En­vi­ron­ment Canada, head­ing up its Eco­log­i­cal Mon­i­tor­ing and As­sess­ment Net­work from 1998 to 2008 when he re­tired.

“Most Nova Sco­tians ac­cept that cli­mate change is hap­pen­ing but be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy will mit­i­gate its worst ef­fects,” Vaughan said in the let­ter to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. “That hope­fully might be true in the later half of the cen­tury but coastal prop­er­ties, ser­vices, in­fra­struc­ture and com­merce will all be im­pacted by ris­ing sea-lev­els by 2030 and we need to plan now. It’s only 13 year years away.”

Now it’s only 12 years and he says noth­ing has been done in

the mean­time.

In­for­ma­tion

The in­for­ma­tion he pro­vided mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties came from the US Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Global and Re­gional Sea Level Rise Sce­nar­ios for the United States, re­leased on the very last day of Barak Obama’s pres­i­dency.

“These NOAA pre­dic­tions up­date the fig­ures in the last IPCC re­port which were crit­i­cized even at the time as be­ing too low,” Vaughan said in his let­ter. “These con­ser­va­tively pre­dict a rise of 0.4 me­tres or 15.7 inches in the next 13 years re­sult­ing in es­ti­mated 25-fold in­crease in nui­sance and dis­rup­tive flood­ing.”

To put it in per­spec­tive, Vaughan said cur­rently high tides com­bined with storm surges cause about three inches of flood­ing over the An­napo­lis Royal wharf ev­ery 18 to 24 months.

“The NOAA pre­dic­tion would see such flood­ing 12 to 13 times per year by 2030 up to a max­i­mum of 18.7 inches,” said Vaughan. “That is, 15.7 inches max­i­mum pre­dicted plus three inches cur­rent. This is a con­ser­va­tive es­ti­mate based on past storm pat­terns whereas storms are pre­dicted to be­come more com­mon and more ex­treme. Sim­i­lar flood­ing will oc­cur world­wide.”

While he ex­plained how green­house gases like car­bon diox­ide and meth­ane are en­ter­ing the at­mos­phere at alarm­ing rates, and how they trap the sun’s warmth, his mes­sage was more about mit­i­gat­ing and adapt­ing to the re­sults of ris­ing tem­per­a­tures – es­pe­cially in coastal com­mu­ni­ties like An­napo­lis Royal – and not about re­duc­ing car­bon foot­prints and se­ques­ter­ing car­bon. He be­lieves that also has to be done, but said noth­ing will stop what has al­ready been set in mo­tion. Those sea level rises will hap­pen no mat­ter what.

“Choices that sharply limit emis­sions can moder­ate the im­pacts of cli­mate change for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” said Vaughan, “but we are too late to stop them.”

An­napo­lis Royal

An­napo­lis Royal Mayor Bill Mac­don­ald at­tended the meet­ing and told the crowd that town coun­cil was al­ready in the process of strik­ing a com­mit­tee to look at sea level rise and ac­tion that can be taken.

“I bring good news,” he said. “This mayor and coun­cil are in the process of es­tab­lish­ing a com­mit­tee – the name of which is yet to be de­ter­mined.”

He said it will be a stand­ing com­mit­tee like all the com­mit­tees of the town and there would be op­por­tu­nity for mem­bers of the pub­lic to be on that com­mit­tee.

“Ab­so­lutely we know that in the past fire was a dan­ger to our com­mu­nity,” Mac­don­ald said. “Wa­ter is now our new dan­ger and we all rec­og­nize that. We can­not wait for some­one else to do it. We do need to do it. This is the conversation we had at coun­cil. I said, ‘it can’t wait for the next ad­min­is­tra­tion to get around to do­ing it. We’re tasked with it to do some­thing now.’”

He said An­napo­lis Royal’s CAO is reach­ing out to the County of An­napo­lis, the County of Digby, the Town of Digby to look at the prob­lem.

At the end of the meet­ing, many signed up to be part of a group ex­plor­ing next steps and a meet­ing for those in­ter­ested is sched­uled for Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. at the up­stairs meet­ing room of the Old Town Pub just of Mar­ket Square.

Vaughan and Marc Wilder at­tended an or­ga­niz­ing meet­ing in Wolfville on Feb. 16 with a fo­cus on sea level rise in At­lantic Canada. That meet­ing was or­ga­nized by Ed­u­cat­ing Coastal Com­mu­ni­ties About Sea Level Rise. That group will make a sim­i­lar pre­sen­ta­tion in An­napo­lis Royal in April.

LAWRENCE POW­ELL

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