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Government launches $200,000 climate change study

Future speculation: Hurricane Joaquin over the Western Atlantic Ocean. Once in a century climate events are now expected to become annual events, the home affairs minister, Walter Roban, told the House of Assembly today.

The Government has launched a $200,000 climate change study aimed at determining the threats to Bermuda from climate change.

Walter Roban, the home affairs minister, told the House of Assembly today: “Within the next 25 years Bermuda is expected to experience extreme weather events.

“Events that typically used to occur once every 100 years are predicted to occur every year. These include more frequent and more intense storms, higher sea levels and tides, and increased and intense but less predictable rainfall.

“Additionally, Bermuda faces the threat of major changes to its marine ecosystem including our protective coral reefs that encircle the islands, as well as intrusion of salt water into our freshwater lenses which may result in critical reductions in our water supply.”

Mr Roban said that following consultations with Government House, the UK government had provided a $200,000 grant to Bermuda to “assess some of the inherent risks to Bermuda caused by the impacts of climate change”.

He said the Department of Planning had engaged Smith Warner International Ltd, which previously wrote a 2004 report titled “Coastal Protection and Development Planning Guidelines for Bermuda”, to conduct the climate study.

Mr Roban added: “It is intended that SWI will undertake an update with an expanded scope to their 2004 report on coastal erosion. The terms of reference will not only be updating the findings of the 2004 report, but will also be undertaking further studies and making recommendations to better understand the impacts of climate change.”

He added: “The study will make predictions specifically for Bermuda with a projection timeline for best- and worst-case climate change scenarios over short-, medium- and long-term time frames. ”

These include:

• Undertaking a vulnerability assessment for major infrastructure such as the airport, ports, public highways, the electricity generation plant, subterranean utility cabling, the Tyne’s Bay incinerator, and sewage management systems;

• Identifying what effect sea level rise will have on waterways, inshore ponds, and marshes, from an ecological perspective;

• Identifying Government infrastructure and facilities located at or close to the shoreline that are at risk from erosion or inundation;

• Identifying agricultural areas vulnerable to saltwater inundation and to soil salinisation, within the context of food security and our continued ability to cultivate fields;

• Updating coastal erosion and flood inundation projections for the offshore islands, bays, beaches, and dunes, especially during storms and hurricanes;

• Understanding the effects that coastal erosion and sea level rise will have on the mean sea level benchmark thereby impacting waterfront properties;

• Identifying coastal areas prone to hydraulic erosion and/or destabilisation of the cliff faces for the island shoreline areas;

• Mapping projections for inundation across Bermuda identifying both low-lying coastal areas that will be periodically or permanently inundated by seawater, and low-lying freshwater resources that could be impacted by saltwater intrusion;

• Making recommendations for products/construction methods that are effective in controlling or reducing the effects of erosion. e.g., cliffs, and beach dunes, including “green” or hybrid approaches;

• Identifying ‘no go’ areas for future development based on predicted flood zones and areas susceptible to high erosion; and

• Identifying critical infrastructure components that will be at risk over the near-, medium- and long-term time frames.

Mr Roban said representatives of SWI arrived earlier this week. The report’s recommendations would help the Government to plan to address and prioritise measures to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

He said it is also planned to amend the coastal zoning in the Bermuda Plan, after the statutory consultation period, to reflect the data captured and allow landowners to make informed choices about developing land that may be affected by rising sea levels.

Mr Roban said a Climate Task Force was established last year and is made up of representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs including the Departments of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources, and Planning; and the Ministries of Public Works; Finance and Transport, which includes the Bermuda Weather Service.

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Published March 04, 2022 at 10:34 am (Updated March 04, 2022 at 10:39 am)

Government launches $200,000 climate change study

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