Editorial: Rising waters

Published on March 7, 2017

The flooded road way in Weymouth Falls, N.S. on Dec. 3.


For some Cape Bretoners, it might at first seem like a dream come true — to others, a nightmare: to be a separate island again, free from the causeway to the mainland.

For Prince Edward Islanders, it would be a destructive storm surge waiting to happen.

In Newfoundland and Labrador? Well, given that the vast majority of the province’s population is clustered at the ocean’s edge, close to the coast, it would mean a large migration.

While we’ve all spent this winter focused on the next significant snowfall, weather in some other places has been even more alarming.

Newly released Antarctic temperature details show that continent has reached unprecedented high temperatures, with a March 2015 temperature now confirmed at 17.5 degrees Celsius. Antarctic ice melt has increased by 75 per cent over the last 10 years. Meanwhile, in the Arctic, there have been three instances of temperatures spiking to as much as 30 degrees over normal winter temperatures as large storms pushed further northwards than usual.

The world’s sea ice is shrinking, and the levels of the world’s oceans are rising as a result of the melt. Globally, in 2014, the oceans were some 2.6 inches higher than comparable levels in 1993, and that is increasing, by a steady one-eighth of an inch a year. Some scientists now predict a sea level rise of three feet by the end of this century, given current trends. Worst-case scenario? Some suggest a 23-foot rise in sea level is possible, with a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet.

That means a large chunk of Florida would be underwater, as would Venice, Italy.

But that’s — geographically and temporally at least — far away.

You can view sea level rise in the comfort of your own home, on your computer, and see for yourself what future sea levels might mean for your hard-fought equity.

In some ways, it’s sobering. If you go here, you can manipulate the sea level along the Atlantic region’s coastline, watching the water creep. And keep in mind it’s only showing the areas that are inundated, not areas flooded by even higher water during storms.

Like all web-based things, the viewer doesn’t work on a newspaper page. In print, all we can do is to point out that, at three metres of increased sea level, all of P.E.I.’s coastal beaches would disappear. In Nova Scotia, seven metres of sea rise would mean Windsor and Wolfville would be less seaside than they would be sea-bottom, and Kentville would be seashore.

It may not change anything about how we live our lives, and whether we decide the time to fight global warming is finally here.

But sometimes, seeing that you might have a personal stake in an issue helps to bring it home.