Northeast Coast Vulnerable to Sea Level Rise

Two studies out today warn against imminent effects of climate change, both from a scientific and human rights perspective.

Scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) will publish a study tomorrow in Geophysical Research Letters detailing a new climate model that includes the melting Greenland Ice Sheet as a contributor to sea level rise. The study predicts sea level along the northeast coast of the U.S. and Canada could rise up to 20 inches above predicted global averages by the end of this century. The 2007 IPCC report predicted a 7-23 inch global average rise in sea level, but the current research indicates this prediction may have been too conservative. The contribution of fresh water from the Greenland ice sheet could disrupt the ocean conveyor that shuttles dense, cold water north, and warming north Atlantic waters will rise. If this happens at the rate NCAR predicts, northeast coastal cities will have to adapt.

A second report out today looks at climate change adaption from a human rights standpoint. McGill University geographer James D. Ford is calling on the international community to create an adaptation fund for people vulnerable to climate change, specifically Inuit communities in the Arctic circumpolar region. Since Inuit are among the first to experience serious effect of climate change, Ford says helping them adapt will set an international precedent. Read Ford's paper here.

Rising sea level and melting ice create dangerous hunting conditions for subsistence farmers, limiting mobility between communities and rendering traditional hunting methods dangerous, and sometimes fatal. Ford suggests donations of GPS systems and satellite phones to help hunters predict weather and ice cover, as well as the creation of new trail networks that avoid the more dangerous spots. Arctic temperatures are rising at twice the global average, and Arctic sea ice extent was at its second lowest ever last September. See the National Snow and Ice Data Center for a map of yearly sea ice retreat.