Local MLA Adam Olsen calls for greater cooperation across jurisdictional boundaries following the release of a report that warns of significant impact to coastal communities.
“So I haven’t seen the report in detail, but the answer is quite simple to me,” he said. “We need to start preparing and start to put the tools into the hands of local government, so that they are able to make decisions.”
Olsen — whose riding of North-Saanich and the Islands includes the Saanich Peninsula and five islands with major population centres — made this appeal after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate prepared by more than 100 scientists from more than 30 countries in assessing what the report calls the “latest scientific knowledge about the physical science basis and impacts of climate change on ocean, coastal, polar and mountain ecosystems, and the human communities that depend on them.”
The report says the global sea level is currently rising more than twice as fast — 3.6 mm per year — than it did during the 20th century, during which the global sea level rose 15 centimetres, with the rate of rise accelerating.
“Sea level will continue to rise for centuries,” it reads. “It could reach around 30-60 cm by 2100 even if greenhouse gas emissions are sharply reduced and global warming is limited to well below 2C, but around 60-110 cm if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase strongly.”
Olsen said that rising sea levels do not respect jurisdictional boundaries.
“There are multiple municipalities and they are all doing their thing on their own time line, some doing something, others doing nothing,” he said. “I am responsible for four First Nations communities as well as they are right on the shoreline.”
All seven jurisdictions on the Saanich Peninsula need to be working with each other, said Olsen.
“I think it is important that we are doing this early, we are doing it often, and we are doing it in a coordinated way,” he said.
Speaking with what the report calls “high confidence,” the report notes that “[coastal] ecosystems are already impacted by the combination of sea level rise, other climate-related ocean changes, and adverse effects from human activities on ocean and land.”
By way of context, the report states that “[attributing] such impacts to sea level rise, however, remains challenging due to the influence of other climate-related and non-climatic drivers such as infrastructure development and human-induced habitat degradation.”
Speaking with “high confidence,” the report said that the “expected impacts of sea level rise on coastal ecosystems over the course of the century include habitat contraction, loss of functionality and biodiversity, and lateral and inland migration.”
It is important to note that the report does not directly address the potential impact of rising levels on the Saanich Peninsula or even Vancouver Island in acknowledging “sea level does not and will not rise uniformly” in pointing to various factors inside and outside the control of humans.
This said, the report notes with “very high confidence” that “[risk] related to sea level rise (including erosion, flooding and salinization) is expected to significantly increase by the end of this century along all low-lying coasts in the absence of major additional adaptation efforts.”