Thursday, December 1, 2011
The writing is on the seawall, so to speak: Global warming is happening harder and faster than even the most pessimistic predictions. Worldwide, greenhouse gas emissions were 6 percent higher in 2010 than in 2009 – the highest year-to-year jump yet. That means we’ve already outpaced the worst-case scenario considered in the 2007 International Panel on Climate Change report.
So, even as we keep working to curtail greenhouse gas emissions, we also need to brace ourselves for what’s coming.
Center for Ocean Solutions and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary are starting that regional conversation with a Dec. 6 workshop at Monterey Conference Center, “Preparing for the Future: Climate Change and the Monterey Bay Shoreline.”
“We think about emissions at a global scale, but we’re feeling those impacts at a local level,” says Adina Abeles, education director for Ocean Solutions. “A warmer earth means higher sea levels and stronger winter storms. Combined, these lead to increased flooding in low-lying areas, increased coastal inundation that can reach further inland, saltwater intrusion and increased coastal erosion.”
For example, South Monterey Bay has one of the highest shoreline erosion rates in the state, which leaves beach developments like Monterey’s Best Western Resort and Ocean Harbor House condos scrambling to build seawalls.
Some effects of sea level rise are less obvious, like accelerated saltwater intrusion, which threatens to contaminate the aquifers that supply 80 percent of Monterey County’s potable water.
UC Santa Cruz coastal geologist Gary Griggs, a keynote speaker at Tuesday’s conference, predicts rainier winters and drier, hotter summers – which lead to more water use – in the Monterey Bay region. Farmers are also noting a link between warmer winters and declining fruit yields, which could impact local orchards and vineyards.
The invitation-only conference brings together representatives from local jurisdictions, regional and state agencies, research institutes and environmental nonprofits. “Hopefully what will come out of it is more coordination and potential collaborations,” says Karen Grimmer, MBNMS deputy superintendent.
Despite the alarming tone of recent climate-change reports, Griggs says there’s no need to panic. He predicts that by 2050, the average sea level in Monterey Bay might be about 12-14 inches higher than today’s average; but the region has already experienced those higher seas in stormy El Niño years.
“It gives us time to plan,” he says. “It doesn’t mean, ‘Stick your head in the sand and don’t worry about it.’ This is an early warning.”
For more on local climate change impacts (and how to plan for them), visit www.ClimateChangeMontereyBay.org and www.CenterForOceanSolutions.org/PreparingForTheFuture