This past Monday 5 March 2013 I gave a conference Sea Level Rise: Can we keep the sea away? at Harris Hall, St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, on Boca Raton, Florida by invitation of their Speaker Forum Lecture Series group. ( March 4, Lecture 2013 ) What a pleasant experience it was to speak in front of a well-informed audience, included my better half Marcia, whose members asked numerous quite relevant and challenging questions during a 30 minute Q&A period following my presentation. Quite interesting exchanges of comments, opinions and more questions followed for another hour while refreshments and finger-foods were shared by all.
One of the challenges in preparing this conference was how to take what has become a prevalent subject of news and discussions, which is quite complex from a scientific perspective, but which is also controversial and even political in many aspects, and be able to present it in a comprehensive, informative, stimulating and balanced way in the limited time of no more than 45 minutes. I am happy to say that I may have pulled this off for not only did I meet the time limitation, but at least three of the participants with whom I exchanged views after the presentation made comments about how interesting and well-balanced my conference had been.
In the conference I addressed the main natural causes of global warming as a byproduct of climate change and driver of sea level rise including variations in the orbit and tilt of the Earth, and greenhouse gases, as well as the role of human activity as a contributing factor in an accelerating rate of global temperature rise.
In order to make what is still a minute rate of sea level rise, 2.5 – 3.0 mm a year, meaningful at the local level I introduced the factors of sea level run that is the horizontal component of the rise in sea level, and the exacerbation of storm surge and wave impact during hurricanes plus the increase in flooding of urban areas during high tides, of which there were several local events toward the end of 2012. The message here was clear, while it may be 50 to 100 years before the cumulative effect of sea level rise becomes significant, coastal communities in Southeast Florida and elsewhere are already experiencing the impact and are at risk of damage with each new Atlantic hurricane season or just during high tide as our shores keep on retreating from rising seas.
The final key point of my conference was adaptation and what others have done or are doing specifically to protect their communities against rising seas and exacerbated storm surges. I illustrated this topic with pictures of actual projects in England, Italy and the Netherlands.
In my concluding remarks I contrasted the mind-set, the philosophical approach if you will, of those who made projects such as the Thames Surge Barrier, the MOSE project in Venice, Italy and the Netherland’s Delta Project possible, with the prevailing approach and surrounding ideological and political noise in the United States, which has by and large driven us to paralysis when it comes to taking adaptation actions.
You may view a PDF version of the power point I used to illustrate my conference by clicking on the following link: Presentation 4 March 2013