Vancouver Island’s coastlines could look much different by 2100 from rising sea levels due to climate change.
A new series of interactive maps illustrate the impact of rising sea levels, suggesting Canada is facing a mind-boggling challenge to keep popular and often historic neighbourhoods from becoming lost at sea.
The maps give scenarios for global temperatures rising one-to-four degrees Celsius by the turn of the century.
John Clague, an earth sciences professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, says thanks to global warming, our oceans are getting an average of 3.3 millimetres higher every year, up from 2 mm a year in the latter half of the 20th century.
The United Nations predicts the world’s oceans will be at least one metre higher by the end of the current century. After another 100 years, it could be four times that.
In a worst-case scenario for Victoria, much of the Inner Harbour to the Gorge would be under water, along with James Bay and much of Dallas Road.
The map suggests Campbell River could see a big change to the north end of its core going west along Highway 28 should temperatures go up four degrees.
The maps also show changes to other coastal communities including Nanaimo, Tofino and Port Hardy.
“I call it a disaster in slow-mo,” Clague said.
“It is really a huge problem. It’s a global problem and the cost of dealing with this or not dealing with it, depending on what happens, is enormous.”
The maps were created by U.S.-based Climate Central based on no mitigation efforts taking place, although some areas do already have existing dikes or protections.
The problem could well be most dire in Vancouver, said Clague.
“Metro Vancouver is the most vulnerable urban area in Canada to sea level rise,” he said. “We have about 250,000 people living within about a metre of mean sea level.”
At two degrees, hundreds of homes and businesses in North Vancouver would be underwater, as would large parts of the False Creek waterfront. At four degrees, famed Stanley Park becomes an island and the Vancouver neighbourhoods of Mount Pleasant and Fairview become a sea of blue.
Richmond, B.C., is only one metre above sea level now, but director of engineering John Irving said Wednesday the city has been preparing for sea level rise for years.
Between reenforcing existing dikes and building “superdikes” that are more than 50 metres wide, the city is getting ready as fast as it can.
With files from the Canadian Press.