ILOILO City – “Things like that should not be immediately accepted by anyone.” This is Mayor Jerry Treñas’ reaction to a report about this city possibly disappearing by 2050 due to rising sea levels. The study was conducted by Climate Central, a United States-based “independent organization of leading scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about changing climate and its impact on the public.”
“First of all I do not know whether that will really happen. Second, I do not know who made the report,” said Treñas.
According to the study, Iloilo City is among major cities in the Philippines that rising sea levels could swallow. Other areas were Roxas City in Capiz province, Cebu City, northwestern Metro Manila and parts of Bulacan, the city of Manila, southwestern Manila, and Zamboanga City.
The study results were published in the journal Nature Communications.
Treñas said he heard the new about the study but was unsure about its veracity.
“Waay ko kabalo kon ano na-refer ‘ya, bilog nga Iloilo City or part sang Iloilo City? I will have to check that,” said the mayor.
Nevertheless, he would seek the opinion of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau and other concerned government agencies about the study, said Treñas.
Sea level rise is one of the best known of climate change’s many dangers. As humanity pollutes the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, the planet warms. And as it does so, ice sheets and glaciers melt and warming sea water expands, increasing the volume of the world’s oceans.
The consequences range from near-term increases in coastal flooding that can damage infrastructure and crops to the permanent displacement of coastal communities.
According to the study, rising seas could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought, threatening to erase some of the world’s coastal cities.
Iloilo City is a coastal metropolis. It faces the Iloilo Strait.
Treñas acknowledged that the rising of seawater is one reason why the city government has pumping stations.
“Because magsugata ang high tide, nagasulod ang tubig sa drainage naton,” he said.
The city’s pumping stations are on Muelle Loney Street one at the Iloilo River.
“But whether malubog ang Iloilo City, that is another story,” said Treñas.
According to Climate Central, over the course of the 21st century, global sea levels are projected to rise between about 2 and 7 feet, and possibly more. The key variables will be how much warming pollution humanity dumps into the atmosphere and how quickly the land-based ice sheets in Greenland and especially Antarctica destabilize. Projecting where and when that rise could translate into increased flooding and permanent inundation is profoundly important for coastal planning and for reckoning the costs of humanity’s emissions.
In its website, Climate Central stated that projecting flood risk involves not only estimating future sea level rise but also comparing it against land elevations. However, sufficiently accurate elevation data are either unavailable or inaccessible to the public, or prohibitively expensive in most of the world outside the United States, Australia, and parts of Europe. This clouds understanding of where and when sea level rise could affect coastal communities in the most vulnerable parts of the world.
According to Climate Central, a new digital elevation model it produced helps fill the gap. That model, CoastalDEM, shows that many of the world’s coastlines are far lower than has been generally known and that sea level rise could affect hundreds of millions of more people in the coming decades than previously understood.
Based on sea level projections for 2050, land currently home to 300 million people will fall below the elevation of an average annual coastal flood. By 2100, land now home to 200 million people could sit permanently below the high tide line.
To lessen the threat, Climate Central suggests adapting measures such as construction of levees and other defenses or relocation to higher ground.
“In fact, based on CoastalDEM, roughly 110 million people currently live on land below high tide line. This population is almost certainly protected to some degree by existing coastal defenses, which may or may not be adequate for future sea levels,” Climate Central stated.
Despite these existing defenses, Climate Central said increasing ocean flooding, permanent submergence, and coastal defense costs are likely to deliver profound humanitarian, economic, and political consequences.
“This will happen not just in the distant future, but also within the lifetimes of most people alive today,” it added./PN