3C of warming will leave world cities below sea level

How Shanghai would look with a rise of just 2C: the UN warned this week of a potential 3C scenario. Photograph: Nickolay Lamm/Courtesy Climate Central

Hundreds of millions of urban dwellers around the world face their cities being inundated by rising seawaters if latest UN warnings that the world is on course for 3C of global warming come true, according to a Guardian data analysis.

Data from the Climate Central group of scientists analysed by Guardian journalists shows that 3C of global warming would ultimately lock in irreversible sea-level rises of perhaps two metres. Cities from Shanghai to Alexandria, and Rio to Osaka are among the worst affected. Miami would be inundated – as would the entire bottom third of the US state of Florida.

South Beach, Miami, would be mostly underwater. Photograph: Nickolay Lamm/Courtesy Climate Central

In Miami – which would be almost entirely below sea level even at 2C warming – the sense of urgency is evident at city hall, where commissioners are asking voters to approve a “Miami Forever” bond in the November ballot that includes $192m for upgrading pump stations, expanding drainage systems, elevating roads and building dykes.

A 3C rise would lead to longer droughts, fiercer hurricanes and lock in sea-level rises that would redraw many coastlines. Depending on the speed at which icecaps and glaciers melt, this could take decades or more than a century.

At least 275 million city dwellers live in vulnerable areas, the majority of them in Asian coastal megacities and industrial hubs such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Bangkok and Tokyo.

Japan’s second biggest city, Osaka, is projected to lose its business and entertainments districts of Umeda and Namba unless global emissions are forced down or flood defences are built up. Officials are reluctantly accepting they must now put more effort into the latter.

Read the complete article on The Guardian newspaper site.

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Foot-Long, Sex-Crazed Snails That Pierce Tires and Devour Houses

snail

In the 1960’s a boy vacationing with his family in Hawaii had pocketed a few giant African land snails (Lissachatina fulica), a mollusk that grows to a foot long and a full pound. Hawaii had been battling the pest, and so too would Florida, where the boy returned with his new friends. Once home, he quickly grew bored of the snails and handed them over to his grandmother, who set them free in her backyard.

But what about the ‘sex-crazed’ part of the story?

You see, the giant African land snail is a hermaphroditic love machine. “Snails have female bits and male bits,” explained biologist Robert Cowie of the University of Hawaii, “a single pore, through which if you’re acting as a male, a penis extrudes, or if you’re acting as a female, through which the other snail puts its penis in. And in some cases they can do it reciprocally.”

Thus the giant snail never meets another snail it can’t get busy with. Once fertilized, the snail will bury several hundred eggs a few inches below ground, and because of the incredible size of the species, the young will emerge far larger than native varieties, making them that much more resistant to predation.

Today, Miami is simply overrun with the things. Not only do the giant snails chow on some 500 economically important plants in the area, they’re devouring houses. It seems they have a taste for stucco, which contains precious calcium. Without a ready supply of the stuff to fuel their amazing growth, they’ll simply turn on each other — at least in captivity.

Cowie knows all too well the explosive population growth these things are capable of when left unchecked. In Hawaii, where he lives, the giant African land snail was introduced in the 1930s by Japanese immigrants who wanted to keep them as pets. They have since essentially assumed ecological control, tearing through agriculture and muscling out native species.

Speaking of agriculture, all manner of critters could very easily end up in your Caesar salad, for instance, since cooks don’t always peel apart the lettuce before chopping it. “And it could just as well be a little baby African snail,” said Cowie. “OK, it’s a bit crunchy, but so is the lettuce a bit crunchy, and you’d never know. So that’s the way people generally get infected in places where they don’t habitually eat raw snails.”

Read the full story here.

 

 

You’re going to get wet

Image from The Economist magazine.

Image from The Economist magazine.

I lived for a few years in a home on Vancouver Island a few feet from the ocean, and had an interest in global warming increasingly creeping water up towards home during the coming years.

I didn’t see the sense living in a million-dollar home with a million-dollar ocean view if in 20-40 years you need a submarine to get to your car.

Lately, I’ve seen more and more waterfront homes coming on the market for $4-28 million dollars. Maybe these owners are deciding to get out while the getting is good.

Before Hurricane Sandy tore through New York and New Jersey, it stopped in Florida. Huge waves covered beaches, swept over Fort Lauderdale’s concrete sea wall and spilled onto A1A, Florida’s coastal highway. Beach erosion forced Fort Lauderdale to buy sand from an inland mine in central Florida; the mine’s soft, white sand stands out against the darker, grittier native variety.

Even as seas have risen over the past century, Americans have rushed to build homes near the beach. Storms that lash the modern American coastline cause more economic damage than their predecessors because there is more to destroy. The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926, a Category 4 storm, caused $1 billion-worth of damage in current dollars. Were it to strike today the insured losses would be $125 billion, reckons AIR Worldwide, a catastrophe-modelling firm. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, caused $23 billion in damage; today it would be twice that.

The Economist magazine has a great article titled “You’re going to get wet”. Well worth reading.