Sea Rise Worries New Zealand, Happening at a Faster Pace
According to research published recently, sea levels are rising twice as quickly as previously predicted in areas of New Zealand, putting the country's two largest cities at risk decades sooner than planned. According to government-backed statistics collected along the country's coastline, certain regions are already sinking 3-4mm (0.11-0.16 inches) every year, accelerating a long-expected threat.
The estimates, one expert described as "a little alarming," are due to a five-year, government-funded study initiative called NZ SeaRise, which brought together dozens of local and international specialists.
Because of their prediction, authorities will have far less time than projected to implement climate adaptation strategies, which may include relocating coastal towns.
According to NZ SeaRise co-leader Tim Naish, a professor at Wellington's Victoria University, the global sea level is expected to rise about 0.5 metres (19.8 inches) by 2100, substantial parts of New Zealand may see a rise closer to 1 metre (39.4 inches).
It's bad news for Wellington, the capital city, which could see a 30cm (11.8 inch) rise in sea level by 2040 — a level not forecast until 2060.
With that increase, Wellington residents should experience once-a-century flood damage every year.
"We don't have as much time to act," Naish explained. "You'll experience the effects of a potentially disastrous rise in sea level much sooner than we anticipated." Floodwaters will inundate roads and buildings. Yes, it's frightening, but there's still time, and I believe that's the best way to look at it."
Auckland, the country's most populous city with a 1.7 million population, is particularly vulnerable.
The city's downtown shoreline and some central-city suburbs are expected to experience a 50 per cent faster rise in sea level, with wide-ranging ramifications for housing values and insurance premiums.
Residents and officials can use an online tool developed by NZ SeaRise to verify projections for the specific length of the coast, allowing them to estimate the danger of flooding and erosion.
Adaptation planning, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, is already underway, including financing for the relocation of some populations and infrastructure away from susceptible beaches.
New Zealanders should not accept that sea level rises will be unavoidable beyond those predicted soon and that every citizen should do everything possible to reduce emissions and mitigate the effects of climate change, according to Ardern.
The melting of land-based glaciers and the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets all contribute to global sea-level rise.