Friday, September 27, 2013

If You Love Greenwich's Waterfront and Beaches-- Or Anywhere For That Matter-- Read On

The documentary, Shored Up, was brought to Stamford's Avon Theatre this week by the Greenwich, Darien and Westchester League of Women Voters.  As my family doesn't live in any of Greenwich's waterfront communities-- ie.,  Old Greenwich, Riverside, Mead Point, or Byram-- I must admit that when heavy rains or storms hit the town, I pay only moderate attention.  This film, however, caught my attention and scared the bejesus out of me.  

Below, are the basics on global warming and sea level rise.  One thing is for sure, even if you don't live on the coast.  The impact of this natural phenomenon is far reaching and significant, and putting your head in the sand is not going to make it go away.

Where The Issue Begins
The discussion begins with global warming.  Global warming is a by-product of our growth during the industrial period, where manufacturing, energy, and transportation (to name just a few culprits) emit poisonous gases like carbon dioxide and monoxide into the atmosphere, where the heat is trapped.  The trapped heat warms the air  which warms the seas.  Warmer seas cause massive ice shelves to break off in the Arctic and Antarctic.  
Eroding Glaciers        Credit: Raurek Kaphaira


With millions of tons of ice breaking off and melting, sea levels are rising.

Just today, the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) climatechange2013.org released their 6th report on global warming.  The results are consistent with the Panel's first report in 1990 but with far more detail and accuracy.  Humans, are the main cause of global warming since the 1950s, due to fossil fuel emissions and other greenhouse gases.  Using 45 different models that are far more accurate than ever before, the impact and future of our coastlines and climate are detailed in this report and the results are grim.


Rising sea levels impact the world in a number of ways:


  • Rising sea levels cause water levels to increase and invade coastlines, leading to flooding and beach erosion.  
  • There is a threat of extinction of animals and plant life living in cold climates, such as the polar bear and penguins. 
    With man's abuse of carbon dioxide and monoxide gas, the possibility of extinction is real.
  • Rising sea levels cause beach erosion, threatening homes and businesses built on the coastline,
  • Coastal recreation, such as surfing, is in jeopardy if beaches disappear.
But here's the statistic that made my stomach turn:  During the 21st century, it is predicted that the sea will rise nearly 2 1/2 feet and continue to do so.  
A Future NYC?           Credit: Maria Stenzel

Sea levels are rising at a more rapid rate than ever before and where all this leads is to the very real possibility of places we know as our own- from Manhatten to the Hamptons to the Connecticut shoreline, one day being under water.





Shored Up is a documentary that examines hard questions about our coastal communities and our relationship to the land:  What will a rising sea do to our homes, our businesses, and the survival of our communities? Can we afford to pile enough sand on our shores to keep the ocean at bay? This documentary looks at Long Beach Island, New Jersey and the Outer Banks of North Carolina, via interviews with surfers, politicians, scientists and residents as examples of beach rebuilding.  It looks at beach engineering and wonders if this is the only, or best, solution.  It's a compelling piece and well worth an hour of time and bucket of popcorn.

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