Drown Your Town shows climate change impacts

Images show a future with least coastline

Darrell Cole webcomments@ngnews.ca
Published on February 4, 2014

The Ecology Action Centre is  using the popular program Google Earth to show how sea level rise will impact Nova Scotia.

AMHERST – Amherst and Cumberland County would look a lot different if sea levels rose by just two metres.

Inspired by the Drown Your Town movement started by Andrew Thaler in California, volunteers with the Ecology Action Centre entered various amounts of sea level rise for Nova Scotia and came up with some startling images on Google Earth.

“There has been a lot of discussion about the Isthmus of Chignecto and the dykes, but most of that discussion has been in institutions and only gets covered by the media once in a while,” Jennifer Graham said. “What I liked about this is people can take the information into their own hands and see what it might look like. While it’s not as accurate or as scientific as the LIDAR mapping and elevation maps, it certainly gives a decent enough visualization for people to begin thinking and talking and that’s what I was trying to achieve.”

Graham said volunteers with the Ecology Action Centre used increases of one to three metres. One metre is in line with provincial and municipal estimates for the next 100 years. The scenario with three metres added increased storm surges.

For Cumberland County, Graham said volunteer Liz Robinson used a sea level rise of two metres. The images show a large portion of coastline near Northport under water, including the bridge, wharf and provincial park, while part of Pugwash would also slip under the waves.

The scenario also shows a lot of the marsh outside Amherst under water as well as the rail line and the Trans-Canada Highway near the border. Graham said that even if sea levels don’t rise as much as anticipated, levels will still increase because the province is sinking. She said the numbers used are defensible within the range predicted by the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

Thaler, who tweets as @SFriedScientist, wanted to see what San Fransisco would look like if sea levels rose. Thaler was writing a novel about the future and wanted to get a grasp on what his home city would look like.

“He figured out how to use Google Earth to add layers of sea level and the flooding of San Fransisco began. He posted the images to his blog and people really like them and suggested he flood Miami, Venice and other locations,” Graham said. “The demand got so high that he eventually posted the step by step instructions on how to flood your town.”

Using Google Earth he was able to adjust sea levels by various heights and found the streetscapes changed considerably. He created the hashtag #DrownYourTown and encouraged others to do the same.

Graham said Thaler’s work in December and thought it would be applicable to Nova Scotia in hopes of starting a discussion on how sea levels are influenced by climate change and what people can do to minimize their impact.

“We need to get serious about mitigating sea level rise and need to begin thinking about how even if we reduced greenhouse gas emissions today we’d still be living with the sea level rise for the next 100 years,” she said. “The question is how do we want to plan? Do we build higher and wider dykes?

“I like this took because it gets people thinking and talking, and it’s also fun.”

She hopes the discussion leads to changes to land-use bylaws to stop building and development in areas that could be at risk and leads municipal and provincial leaders to take steps now to prepare.


Twitter: @ADNdarrell