Bid to fight rising sea levels is 'plan for the moment'

August 23, 2018

Bid to fight rising sea levels is 'plan for the moment'

Coastal sites in New Zealand have experienced significant rises in sea levels in the past 20 years. Photo: Shahan Narsang

Councils and communities across New Zealand should use a "dynamic adaptive pathway approach" to battle sea level rise, experts say.

Such adaptive planning supports decision-making to battle sea level rise under uncertainty and change.

Adaptation planning pathways aim to explore different approaches to robustness and flexibility depending on how the climate changes or change accelerates.

Dr Judy Lawrence is a senior research fellow at the Climate Change Research Institute, School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences at Victoria University and spoke at a panel discussion in Auckland this week.

“Invest not too little, nor too much, and not too early and not too late. Plan for the moment and not for the long-term,” Dr Lawrence said.

The pathway approach also provides insights into enabling short-term actions, while keeping other options open for later responsive change.

“This dynamic process not only helps us to be flexible and stay on track with our objectives for the moment but also helps us to enable re-set plan if there is another unexpected major catastrophe,” Dr Lawrence added.

Statistics provided by the Ministry for Environment say most coastal sites in New Zealand have experienced higher sea levels in the last 20 years.

Available tide gauge data have shown continuous rising linear trends.

Wellington has witnessed a rise of 0.16 mm/year in sea levels from 1899 to 2015, with Auckland recording a high of 0.08 mm/year.

Sea level varies naturally from place to place due to local ocean circulation and temperatures and the movement of the land relative to the sea.

However, sea-level rise is a direct effect of climate change.

Increased global temperatures also lead to rising sea levels as warmer waters take up more space.

High temperatures due to the rise in greenhouse gasses are also causing ice from glaciers to melt and enter the ocean.

The Ministry of Environment is working on a Zero Carbon Bill which will further aim to curb pollution levels in New Zealand.

Emma Lemire, a climate change analyst at the Ministry for Environment said: “The Zero Carbon Bill will set a long-term commitment to transition New Zealand to low emissions.”

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