‘Rising sea levels will only happen around 2100, by then we’ll all be dead’: a surprising view from Hong Kong at Paris climate summit

Li Jing in Paris South China Morning Post 8 Dec 15;

When Hong Kong’s secretary for the environment speaks about the challenges posed by a warming earth, he refers mainly to extreme weather.

At a side event at the Paris climate summit, Wong Kam-sing spoke on Monday about how the city had adapted to such events. Prone to typhoons, the city had built up its weather forecasting and alert systems that warned citizens to stay indoors and inbound flights to stay grounded, he said.

Meanwhile slope management projects in hilly areas had prevented the landslides the city experienced decades ago, Wong said.

But what about rising sea levels? Wong said Hong Kong was monitoring all climate change related risks and new developments would take account of the risks.

Jeanne Ng, director of group environmental affairs with CLP Holdings, surprised me by saying: “First thing, rising sea levels will only happen around 2100, by then we’ll all be dead.”

Such comments are seldom heard at climate summits nowadays, because scientists and civil society are pressing negotiators to prevent disasters in decades or centuries to come.

A sense of urgency has prevailed at the summit.

Hong Kong has a much better emergency response system for extreme weather events than many mainland cities. And it is already working on reducing coal consumption, while its carbon intensity – emissions relative to GDP – was only about one ninth that of the mainland in 2012, according to Robert Gibson, professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

But the city is not immune from rising sea levels, even now. Hong Kong’s Observatory found the mean sea level in Victoria Harbour rose 30mm per decade from 1954-2014.

Another speaker noted that Tai O villagers had to be relocated whenever there was a storm surge.

Long before they flood the city, rising sea levels are forecast to increase the frequency of storm surges.

Global climate talks have had many disappointing moments over the years. But at least they teach people that coping with climate change is not just about adapting to it, but preventing it.

No comments:

Post a Comment