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Connections: Three items on sea-level rise

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From RISE: an open ideas competition with a $35,000 Grand Prize for innovations to address sea-level rise in Metro Vancouver.

VanRISE is an open ideas competition to find innovative ways to address sea level rise in Metro Vancouver. Form a team of one to four people, submit your idea online, and you could win a cash prize of up to $35,000!

Team registration starts September 8, 2014, but get over to www.sfu.ca/rise to sign up for updates before registration opens. Check out the challenge and dig into the research for more information. Find out more about the public exhibition day, and put October 19 2014 in your diary.

 

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In today’s Vancouver Sun: Rising Sea Level Demands Attention by Tasmin Lyle.

What do sea level rise and climate change mean to the Lower Mainland? Some cherished areas along our coast will be underwater twice a day at high tide, or even all the time. Other areas that are now well back from the ocean will face increasing threat from coastal storms as the shoreline retreats and natural protection is reduced. They will face nuisance levels of flooding every year during winter storm season, or even catastrophic damage when extreme storms hit. And, because the Fraser Valley is exactly that — a relatively flat deltaic valley — the impacts will be seen far upstream. Recent work by the province suggests impacts along the Fraser all the way to Chilliwack. …

The impact will not just be on our environment, but also our economy. Without serious efforts at adaptation — and soon — a large coastal storm would certainly damage the businesses that line our shores, and it could potentially paralyze transportation across the region. Portions of the Port would be under water, major train lines would be severed, road access to the U.S. would be interrupted and YVR would be affected.

Re-read that last sentence: “Portions of the Port … major train lines … road access to the U.S. … YVR would be affected.”

What do they all have in common?  They’re all on the delta lands of the Fraser River, especially south of the Massey Tunnel.

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So why is the Massey Crossing seemingly our first infrastructure priority – a single project on which we will spend roughly the equivalent of the Broadway subway, a transportation project that will put immense development pressure on the agricultural land reserve?

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Massey 2

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Why is this rarely (so far as I can tell, never) critiqued in the context of sea-level rise?  This is a multi-billion project based in Metro Vancouver, no doubt to be largely paid for with tolls from Metro residents, that will not be included in any referendum – and yet will put in place an unstated obligation to deal with the consequences of sea-level rise in the future.

It’s not just that there’s a certain madness to this.  It’s the obliviousness with which we are proceeding to deliberately and massively increase our vulnerability.

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UPDATE: Another connection just came in from ULI’s UrbanLand:

From Droughts to Floods, Extreme Weather’s Increasing Impact

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Far from being a problem for future generations, climate change and its impacts both severe and incremental are confounding communities across the country every single day, according to Rebecca Smyth, the West Coast director of the Coastal Services Center, a branch of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that focuses on coastal health, restoration, and resilience. …

“When we talk about climate change, we can’t talk about it as a future state anymore,” she said. “We have to talk about it as a new normal to plan for and invest in today.” This was the major conclusion of the Third National Climate Assessment, released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program in May. …

Smyth explained how the most successful approach that cities and regions can take to adapt to climate change will combine “gray” (manmade) and “green” (natural) infrastructure. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has championed what it calls SAGE (Systems Approach to Geomorphic Engineering) that embraces both built and natural solutions to coastal resilience. Smyth called upon the audience to “change how we view green infrastructure and nature-based solutions as part of our defense against the hazards and changes, especially sea-level rise.” Wetlands, for example, improve water quality, boost local tourism economies, and reduce the impacts of flooding and tides.

“We have urbanized in a way that has largely been about building around nature instead of building with nature,” Smyth said. “What we have now is an opportunity to build with nature.”

Not us, say we in B.C., from Port Metro Vancouver (which just approved the expansion of the upstream coal port), to Tsawwassen First Nation (paving over its lands for the second biggest car-based shopping complex in B.C.) to the provincial government (building billions in infrastructure to serve development on the delta).   We’re carbon dealers and soft denialists, and that will make us rich.