[PART 2-Continued from Filipinos in Auckland]
EARTH: A WATER WORLD
Floating silently in space on one spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy in the vast ness of the universe, our little home orbits the sun like clockwork. It is essen tially a water world which holds 321-million cubic miles of this element called H2O. The infographic above provides an accounting of the current volume of water in all its various forms and sources.
After the oceans, seas and bays, ground water (5.614-million cubic miles) and ice (5.773-million cubic miles) are by far the two largest fresh water reservoirs of this element on the planet. There is more than 11.387-million cubic miles of it too if you include other smaller sources like swamps, lakes and rivers.
But if we burn all the Earth’s supply of coal, oil, and gas, adding some 5-trillion more tons of carbon to the atmosphere, we will create a very hot planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58. Large swaths of it might become too hot for humans. And it would likely be ice free for the first time in more than 30-million years.
All the maps following hereunder show the world as it is now, with only one significant difference: all the ice on land has melted and drained into the sea, raising it 216-feet and creating new shorelines for our continents and inland seas.
There are more than 5-million cubic miles of ice on Earth. In form of ice, no one really knows how long it would take to melt but some scientists venture to say that it would take more than 5,000-years to melt it all it all under normal cycles and conditions. On the other hand, If we continue adding carbon and other greenhouse emission to the atmosphere, we will very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80° F (26.66 °C) instead of the current 58° F (14.44 °C).
At that level of temperature, Earth’s ice sheet will disappear.
COMMENTARY: The two polar regions are boundless wilderness areas covered with ice, biting winds, snowstorms, glaciers and bare rock. Antarctica is a continent twice the size of Australia and covered by the world’s largest ice sheet. The Arctic is a complete contrast; most of what’s under it is ocean, almost completely surrounded by land and covered for most of the year by thick floating ice. Nearly 85%of the world’s permanent ice is contained in the great ice sheet of Antarctica. When ice builds up over a mountain region, it fills the valleys and forms a huge dome, parted only by uneven peaks of the highest mountains. The greatest ever measured thickness of the Antarctic ice cap is more than 4,770-meters thick and is 15-million square kilometers (5.8-million square miles) wide. All of that may change radically. Because of human activities, Planet Earth is in danger of global warming. Even small-scale melting of the polar ice caps would cause flooding everywhere. If more than three-quarters of the polar ice were to melt, the result would be catastrophic. The world’s normal coastlines areas would be entirely submerged, ports and major cities drowned, and an extensive part of the world’s productive farmland would be immersed.
THE ICE MELT IN ANTARCTICA
Antarctica is this planet’s largest reservoir of stored ice. It has an area of about 14,000,000 km² (5,400,000-sq.mi) and is Earth’s southernmost continent, containing the geographic South Pole.
On average, it is the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, and has the highest average elevation of all the continents. Antarctica is considered a desert of frozen snow (ice) that averages at least 1-mile (1.6-km) in thickness which ex tends to all but the northernmost reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.
East Antarctica: The East Antarctica ice sheet is so large it contains four-fifths of all the ice on Earth that it might seem unmeltable. In fact, that ice survived earlier warm periods intact. Lately it seems to be thickening slightly because of global warming. The warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour, which falls as snow on East Antarctica. But even this behemoth is unlikely to survive a return to an Eocene Climate.
West Antarctica: Like the Greenland ice sheet, the West Antarctic one was apparently much smaller during earlier warm periods of Earth. It’s vulnerable because most of it sits on bedrock that’s below sea level. The warming ocean is melting the floating ice sheet itself from below, causing it to collapse. Since 1992 it has averaged a net loss of 65-million metric tons of ice a year.
Now, if all that ice continues to melt into water as is apparently happening (along with ice found in the North Pole, Greenland and other land-based glaciers), there is no place for it to go except back into the oceans and seas. Along with that surge of rising water, many countries across the globe sharing a coastline will be victimised by an disastrous change which by then nothing can be done about it anymore.
COMMENTARY: The message for world leaders and decision-makers is that sea level rise is real and is only going to get worse and that government and coastal managers around the world should assume the inevitability. In New Zealand, for example, pre serving coastal cities such as Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and many others will require huge public expenditures, leaving smaller coastal resort communities to fend for themselves. The continued development of many low-lying coastal areas is therefore foolhardy and irresponsible. The great concern shaping up today is that – as the infrastructure of major cities in the industrialized world becomes threatened, there will be few resources left to address the dramatic impacts that will be facing citizens of the developing world. The ramifications of a major sea level rise are mas sive. Agriculture will be disrupted, water supplies salinized, storms and flood waters will reach ever further inland, and millions of environmental refugees will be created. Governments, especially those in the developing world, will be disrupted, creating political instability.
MELTDOWN VICTIM #1: NEW ZEALAND
Many countries will lose vast amounts of their landscape if the polar ice caps melted. A huge swathe of Eastern Europe, the entire eastern seaboard of the United States, most of the coastline of Africa, the country of Bangladesh and a large chunk of China would simply disappear under rising ocean waters.
Closer to home, the map you see of New Zealand’s landmass above highlight these areas. This indicates that the country today will require risk analysis to establish their likely vulnerability to coastal inundation as a result of sea-level rise.
If sea waters rise, a body of water would expand into the upper North Island inundating the whole Auckland region across through the Waikato. Wellington City would also be affected, along with the coast south of the Taranaki Bight. Other areas likely to be affected include: Rangaunu Harbour (Northland), Kai para Harbour (Northland and Auckland), The southern Firth of Thames and Hauraki Plains (Waikato), Port Waikato (Waikato), the coast around Maketu and Matata (Bay of Plenty), Poverty Bay (Gisborne), the Napier coastline (Hawke’s Bay), the Manawatu River area near the coast (Manawatu-Wanganui), the Lake Wairarapa area (Wellington).
In the South Island, the coastline would be almost wiped out by rising sea levels if all the world’s ice melted. The cities of Christchurch and Dunedin would be under water, and Southland and Stewart Island would shrink as well. The other high impact areas would include: Cloudy Bay (Marlborough), Westport (West Coast), the coast from Amberley to Christchurch (Canterbury), Lake Ellesmere area (Canterbury), the Taieri Plain (Otago), the Clutha River mouth (Otago) and the southern coast of Southland.
Either end or side of the country, all the fuss that many people make these days about wanting to own (or live in) beachfront properties around the country’s coastlines would in the future prove to be a very poor choice when the waters begin to rise.
COMMENTARY: The bad news that’s coming out is that even modest global warming likely leads to dangerous sea level rise. The worse news is that continuing to do noth ing about greenhouse gas emissions leads to levels of warming and sea rise that are unimaginably catastrophic. Like New Zealand, Australia’s major population centres hug shorelines at all points of its landmass like a string of pearls hung around your neck. Future generations would have to constantly adapt to endlessly rising seas of higher rates. It’s hard enough to imagine even if it were not accompanied by many other simultaneous catastrophes, including dust-bowlification, ocean acidification, and ever-worsening extreme weather.
MELTDOWN VICTIM #2: AUSTRALIA
It won’t be any different for our counterparts across the ditch in Australia. Pre dominantly desert, the continent would lose much of the narrow eastern coastal strip where four out of five Australians now live, reaching as far round as Bris bane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Up north, Darwin disappears into the Timor Sea while on the other side of Arnhem Land the Gulf of Carpentaria expands southward into very large areas of the Northern Territory and Queensland. However, Australia would gain a new inland sea in its centre as far north into the Simpson Dessert.
COMMENTARY: In Asia, past and present climate trends and variability have been characterized by an increasing temperature, which is more pronounced during winters. Various studies show that the observed changes in terrestrial and marine ecosystems have also become more pronounced in the region. Climate change is expected to increase threats to biodiversity, resulting from land-use/cover change and population pressure in most parts of this wide region. Increased risk of extinction for many flora and fauna species in Asia is projected, as a result of the synergistic effects of climate change and habitat fragmentation. Stability of wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs around Asia are all likely to be increasingly threatened. Recent risk analysis of coral reef suggests that between 24% and 30% of the reefs in Asia are also likely to be lost during the next 10-years to 30-years. Today, the crop yield in most countries of Asia is declining, which is due to rising temperatures and increased frequency of extreme weather events. A reduction in agricultural produce and reduced availability of arable land is anticipated by the experts. This will result in chronic shortages of food and food insecurity, particularly in developing countries. Human health, already compromised by a range of factors, could be further hit by the negative impacts of climate change and sea level rise is likely to result in loss of several coastal ecosystems and millions of people living along the coast of Asia and Southeast Asia may be at a high risk of flooding, associated damage and disease. Sea water intrusion and coastal inundation is likely to decrease the fish productivity and infrastructure.
MELTDOWN VICTIM #3: ASIA
Asia is the world’s largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth’s total surface area and comprises 30% of its land area. With approximately 4.3-billion people, it hosts 60% of the world’s current human population.
Land now inhabited by 600-million Chinese would flood, as would all of Bang ladesh (population 160- million), and much of coastal India. The inundation of the Mekong Delta would leave Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains stranded as an island. The map above also shows where most of the land in other parts of this continent (including parts of Russia and the Middle East) will be reclaimed by water.
COMMENTARY: Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change. This situation is further worsened by its poor state of economic development and low adaptive capacity. Agricultural production in many African countries and regions will be severely affected by climate change. Agricultural losses are estimated to be possibly severe for several areas (like the Sahel, East Africa, and southern Africa) accompanied by changes in the length of growing periods impacting mixed rain-fed, arid and semi-arid systems under certain climate projections. In some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% by 2020. This will lead to loss of livelihood, starvation and social anarchy amongst the people. Some regions in East Africa have become drier due to changes in land use pattern and climate. Water sources are becoming intermittent or disappearing; streams that used to run year-round are now seasonal. By 2020, some assessments project that 75-250 million people are estimated to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. Some assessments, for example, show severe increased water stress and possible increased drought risk for parts of northern and southern Africa and increases in run-off in East Africa. Water access is, however, threatened not only by climate change, but also by complex river basin management. This, coupled with increased demand, will adversely affect the livelihoods of millions. Changes in the ecosystem have also had significant impact on wild sources of food which have become hard to find.
MELTDOWN VICTIM #4: AFRICA
With 1.0-billion people (as of 2009), Africa is second-most-populous continent accounting for about 15% of the world’s human population. It is also the world’s second-largest with about 30.2-million km² (11.7-million sq mi) including adja cent islands. Africa covers 6% of the Earth’s total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area.
Compared with other continents, Africa would lose less of its land to the ultimate sea-level catastrophe, but Earth’s unbearably rising heat might make much of it uninhabitable. In Egypt, Alexandria and Cairo will be swamped by the intruding Mediterranean.
On its west end, coastal cities such as Dakar, Freetown, Monrovia, Abidjan, Lagos and Luanda succumb to the rising Atlantic Ocean. At the southern tip of the continent, Cape Town disappears. On its west end, the cities that face the Indian Ocean like Maputo, Dar es Salaam, Mombasa and Mogadishu suffer the same fate.
COMMENTARY: The warming trend throughout Europe is well established. However, recent trends have been very alarming. Sea-level rise is likely to cause beaches to cover more and more land area. The loss is estimated as possibly exceeding 20% of coastal wetlands, thereby affecting the habitat of many species that thrive in that ecosystem. Mountain plant communities face up to a 60% loss of species under high emission scenarios. Water stress is projected to increase over central and southern Europe. The percentage area under high water stress is likely to increase from 19% today to 35% by the 2070s. It is projected that by the 2020s, there will be an increase in winter floods in maritime regions and an increase in flash floods throughout Europe. Coastal flooding related to increasing storm conditions (particularly in the north-eastern Atlantic) and sea-level rise will threaten millions of people annually by the 2080s. Warmer, drier conditions will lead to more frequent and prolonged droughts, as well as a longer fire-season and increased fire risk, particularly in the Mediterranean region. A higher frequency of catastrophic fires is also expected in central and eastern Europe. In the Mediterranean, many temporary aquatic eco systems are projected to disappear, and permanent ones are projected to shrink and become temporary. A large percentage of the European flora will become vulnerable, endangered or likely to be extinct by the end of this century.
MELTDOWN VICTIM #5: EUROPE
While the term has a geographic context, Western Europe is the region originally comprising 9 westerly countries in Europe – Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands and Switzerland.
During the Cold War it was also used to describe the countries associated with the Western European Union (1954–2011), which have now become part of the European Union (EU) and today includes 11 other European countries – Den mark, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Other countries that also belong to this regional group are Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia.
So what happens when the surrounding ocean and seas rise up in this part of the world? Cities such as Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hel sinki, Lisbon, London, Riga, Rome, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Tallin and Venice become all but a memory. Meanwhile, the Mediterranean’s expanding waters will also have swelled the Black and Caspian Seas inundating the cities of Istanbul and Odessa.
COMMENTARY: The major impacts of climate change and extreme events in North America will include increased inundations, and storm surge flooding. Shoreline erosion will be prominent. This will severely affect people living in or near coastal ecosystems like salt marshes. Likewise, due to diminishing snowfields, the availability of water will become a major issue. This will add to the pressure on the availability of the groundwater. Wildfire and insect outbreaks are also likely to intensify. There will be increased risk of deaths due to heat waves, degraded water quality, infestations, water-borne diseases, respiratory illness, and vector-borne infectious diseases. Apart from extreme events in North America, climate change impacts in urban centres will be in the form of urban heat islands, air and water pollution, ageing infrastructure, water quality and supply challenges, along with immigration and population growth, and an ageing population. All this taken together will increase the stress on natural resources, and lead to their over-exploitation and rapid exhaustion.
MELTDOWN VICTIM #6: NORTH AMERICA
Across the Atlantic Ocean to the west, North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hem isphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas. Apart from the Atlantic Ocean on its eastern parts, it is bordered to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west and south by the Pacific Ocean, and to the southeast by South America and the Caribbean Sea.
The entire Atlantic seaboard would vanish under the waters taking with it the highly-populated cities of Boston, Charleston, Halifax, Miami, Montreal, New Or leans, New York, Norfolk, Philadelphia, Tampa, Washington D.C., Houston in Texas, Pine Bluff in Arkansas, Veracruz and Cancun in Mexico, Havana in Cuba and Port-au-Prince in Haiti.
On the western coastline facing the Pacific Ocean, equally more damage occurs. The cities of Vancouver, Seattle and Portland vanish. In California, San Fran cisco’s hills become a cluster of islands and its Central Valley region becomes a giant bay. Los Angeles and San Diego go under as well as the Gulf of California stretches north past the latitude of San Diego not that there’d be a San Diego by that time.
COMMENTARY: Like Europe across the Atlantic Ocean, South America has also been experiencing several unprecedented weather-related events in recent times – intense rainfall in Venezuela, flooding in the Argentine Pampas, Amazon river basin drought in Brazil and frequent hailstorms in Bolivia and parts of Argentina. Recent measure ment studies have shown that there has been increased rainfall in south-eastern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and some parts of Bolivia. This has had impacts on land use and crop yields, and has also increased the frequency of floods in the region. On the other end of this yardstick, a decreased trend in precipitation has been observed in southern Chile, south-western Argentina, southern Peru, and western Central America. Coastal areas will be affected due to the rise in sea-level and frequent extreme events, particularly in low-lying areas. This will have major impact on infrastructure, tourism, livelihoods related to mangrove ecosystems, as well on the availability of potable drinking water. It has been estimated that by the 2020s, the net increase in the number of people experiencing water stress due to climate change will likely range from 7- to 77-million. It is likely that there will be a significant extinction of species in many areas in the tropical zone. This will replace the tropical forests of Amazon and southern and central Mexico with savannahs. Further, it is anticipated that by the 2050s, 50% of the agricultural land will be subjected to desertification and salinization in some areas.
MELTDOWN VICTIM #7: SOUTH AMERICA
Geographically, South America forms the southern portion of the American continental landmass. Geologically speaking, with the formation of the Isthmus of Panama connecting it with North and Central America some 3-million years ago, it is sometimes considered a single continent or supercontinent, while constituent regions are infrequently considered subcontinents.
Brazil is the largest country found in South America and it is where the Amazon Basin is found. In this basis flows the Amazon River which is generally regarded as the second longest river in the world and is by far the largest by water flow with an average daily discharge of about 209,000-cubic meters per second (7,381,000-cu ft/s), greater than the next seven largest rivers combined (not including the Madeira and Rio Negro rivers, which are tributaries of the ‘Mighty’ Amazon).
It is the largest drainage basin in the world, about 7,050,000-square kilometres (2,720,000-sq mi), accounts for approximately one-fifth of the world’s total river flow. But, when the ocean waters in the Atlantic start to rise, the Amazon Basin in the north and the Paraguay River Basin in the south would become Atlantic inlets, wiping out Buenos Aires, coastal Uruguay, and most of Paraguay. Only mountainous stretches would survive along the Caribbean coast and in Central America.
On its Pacific Ocean side, the same fate will befall all the western coastal cities of countries that include Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
All the above maps displayed above serve to illustrate what could possibly become the world of tomorrow if all the ice in the world melts likely towards the end of the 21st century at current rates of ice recession or shrinkage.
Consequently, a dramatic rise in ocean and sea levels around the world will significantly affect the quality of life of human populations, particularly those living in coastal regions and on islands. The natural environment of all coastlines across the globe (e.g., marine ecosystems) would be dislocated and fish nurseries severely affected threatening food supply and security.
The impact to the whole of humanity may also include increased coastal erosion, higher storm-surge flooding, inhibition of primary production processes, more extensive coastal inundation, changes in surface water quality and groundwater characteristics, increased loss of property and coastal habitats, increased flood risk and potential loss of life, loss of non-monetary cultural resources and values, impacts on agriculture and aquaculture through decline in soil and water quality, and loss of tourism, recreation, and transportation functions.
COME TO A GRINDING TO A HALT
Worse still, the infrastructure of all ports becomes unusable as these rests beneath the waters. There would be no place to dock ships to load or unload cargo. Production of agricultural products and other valuable commodities decline. The global shipping industry would shrink drastically and trade between countries that once had bustling seaports to service that trade would altogether come to a grinding halt.
Life as we know it today would be severely disrupted and extremely uncomfort able. Governments around the world will not be able to cope and the social order would disintegrate towards an anarchic state where everyone would be just trying to survive with very little.
If this all comes to pass, would there still be a light at the end of the tunnel which we are beginning just now to find ourselves in? The answer is, yes. As we head toward tunnel’s end and that light increasingly becomes brighter for us to see what’s ahead you will find a speeding train heading towards you.
That’s all there is to it!
Filipinos in Wellington | Fate of Our Faults (Part-2)
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