Friday, August 8, 2014

It's Called "Nuisance Flooding"

Posted by MoS, the Disaffected Lib:

It's the latest term spawned by climate change - "nuisance flooding." According to Insurance Journal, nuisance flooding is the periodic flooding being experienced due to rising sea levels.

Eight of the top 10 U.S. cities that have seen an increase in nuisance flooding - which causes such public inconveniences as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm drains and compromised infrastructure - are on the East Coast, according to a new National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) report.

This nuisance flooding, caused by rising sea levels, has increased on all three U.S. coasts between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s, the report says.

Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, top the list along with Atlantic City, New Jersey; Philadelphia and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. Other cities include Charleston, South Carolina; Washington, D.C.; and Norfolk Virginia.

What is a nuisance today could become something far more destructive in the not too distant future as sea level rise accelerates. At least one analysis suggests we could see up to 2.5 metres of sea level rise by 2040 which would mean a rapid increase beginning over the next few years.

For the most part, sea level rise is a problem we don't seem to talk about. Coastal residents should ask themselves when was the last time they recall sea level rise being discussed by their municipal, provincial or federal representatives? When was it debated on the floor of the House of Commons? What planning is underway? What funding has been allocated to deal with this threat? How much sea level rise do they foresee by when? What do they mean to defend, what do they expect to abandon to the rising sea?

The American example is disturbing. There we find little political will to even acknowledge the problem. Miami, for example, already sustains far worse than nuisance flooding on a regular basis. It cannot be defended and yet municipal and state authorities are doing nothing to rein in new development. Former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, did commit the city to a major flood protection programme but even that may prove inadequate.

How will coastal Canada cope? I haven't got a clue and neither, apparently, do our elected officials. From documents I've read, low-lying municipalities in the Vancouver suburbs (much of Richmond is already well below sea level) are planning little more than raising their sea walls a metre or two. What do they do when high tides swell the Fraser River to overflow its banks?

Why aren't we talking about this? The answer is easy and powerful. Talking about sea level rise leads to any number of questions that can have immediate ramifications. What's the value of a multi-million dollar waterfront property that may well be submerged in two or three decades hence? What will be the toll on urban and suburban infrastructure? How do we decide what we will attempt to defend, what we will abandon? Who wins, who loses? Who pays, who collects? Decisions, decisions. Oh dear.

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