It wasn’t a year ago when I was blogging at Climatefrog – the precursor to pResilience – about sea level rise and how it might affect Marin County where I live. I found it difficult to detect any risk assessment activities relating to the impacts of SLR on this county with its 55-miles of tidal coastline, and that was bothering me, given the scientific evidence available in September 2007.
Now, just a year later, after scientists have reported accelerating melt-off of Greenland’s glacial ice, I’m gratified to find that our city council, right here in little ol’ Mill Valley, is holding a public forum titled “Preparing for Climate Change and Sea Level Rise,” attended by the mayor, our local county supervisor, a senior county planner, and Mill Valley’s Sustainability Director.
I should add here that since last year, most of the predictions of the rate of sea level rise seem to have moderated from the extremely scary projections of 20 feet or more. Yes, such a rise is still eventually possible – under the worst-case scenario that global temperatures will soar (due to the amplifying feedbacks of methane releases from thawing permafrost and warming ocean bottoms), resulting in much faster melting. But responsible scientists tell us that such a worst case would take centuries to become reality. See this RealClimate post for a sanity check on SLR for the coming century.
The latest report, published in Science magazine based upon research about the Greenland ice cap warns that the melting could very well accelerate through the 21st Century, resulting in sea level rise rate of “almost 1 metre per century.”This is considerably higher than the IPCC report projected (10cm at most by 2100).
Of course, the researchers cautiously admit that they’re limited to making educated guesses about this.
Climate scientists are uncertain how susceptible ice sheets are to global warming, largely because they have never witnessed one disappear, so researchers led by Anders Carlson at the University of Wisconsin-Madison decided to look back to the end of the last ice age for clues.
I suspect that our town forum on the subject will reach the conclusion that yes, we are vulnerable, but that things won’t get really serious for a few decades. I’ll be attending, to see how they address the prospect of stronger storm surges combined with even a slight rise in our high tides putting most of our sea level sewage treatment plans out of commission. Not to mention our main highway and probably several hundred residential housing units built, romantically, at just barely above high tide level.