Sea levels in New Zealand are rising faster than expected

Sea levels in New Zealand are rising faster than expected

Data collected along the country’s coastal strip showed that some areas are already sinking by three to four millimeters a year, accelerating the frightening danger. These forecasts are the result of an intensive five-year research program – dubbed NZ SeaRise – carried out by dozens of local and international scientists and funded by the government.

According to their predictions, the authorities have less time than expected to plan how to adapt to the consequences of climate change, in particular the resettlement of the population living along the coasts.

Less time to work

According to Tim Naish, a professor at Wellington University in Victoria who co-led the program, if global sea levels rose by about half a meter by 2100, that rise would have to rise to about one meter in large parts of the archipelago. Because the earth is sinking at the same time.

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This would be particularly disastrous for the capital, Wellington, which could see a 30cm rise in sea level by 2040, which was not expected before 2060. The residents of Wellington could thus be victims each year of floods causing damage.

“He’s creepy”

“We have less time to work, it’s a little intimidating,” Tim Naish said. The data show that the more populated southeast coast of the North Island is the most exposed.

Auckland, with a population of 1.7 million, is the country’s largest city, is particularly vulnerable. Sea levels are expected to rise 50% faster on the downtown waterfront and many suburbs, which will have huge impacts on home prices and insurance premiums.

NZ SeaRise has developed an online tool for residents and authorities to check the forecast for their area, so they can assess flood and erosion risks.

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“We still have time, but we no longer have time to sit idly by,” Tim Naish said, calling on elected officials and promoters to paralyze and think about how best to adapt to this sea level rise.

Moving away from the coast

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said planning was already underway, including budgeting to move some residents and infrastructure away from vulnerable beaches. “The first thing is not to abdicate because there are a series of options that can be made,” she told Radio New Zealand.

“We are working with local authorities and insurance companies to determine who should bear the costs of some of these options as they should not fall to one party alone.” Jacinda Ardern called on New Zealanders to do everything they can to reduce emissions and limit the consequences of climate change.

Sea level rise is due to the thermal expansion of the oceans – water takes up more space when it warms up – and the melting of glaciers in the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

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