Sandwatch & Climate Change
Climate change poses many challenges to beaches and coastal areas and to the people living near these areas.
Sandwatch climate change activities
What is climate change?
Climate change is defined as a change in climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and is observed over long time-periods (many decades).
Climate on earth has changed continually as the planet has evolved geologically. Natural causes include changes in the amount of the sun’s solar radiation reaching the earth, and volcanic eruptions that can shroud the earth in dust thereby reflecting the heat from the sun back into space. Most of the historical changes in climate have occurred on time scales far longer than a human life – centuries, millennia or millions of years.
Natural causes, however, can explain only a small part of the present warming trend that has been observed during the second half of the 20th century. There is now unequivocal evidence that the earth’s climate is changing as a result of human activities, principally increased carbon dioxide emissions, since pre-industrial times (1700s). The overwhelming majority of scientists agree that rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases (Carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) in the atmosphere are causing the climate to change.
Where to get information on climate change?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is one of the most accurate sources of information on climate change. The IPCC was established in 1988 to provide decision-makers and others interested in climate change with an objective source of information. The IPCC produces regular assessment report on the state of the climate. These reports are available on the website www.ipcc.ch
How will climate change affect beaches?
Most of the impacts to beaches are going to be negative. Here are some examples:
How can Sandwatch play a role?
Let us try and look in a positive light at the challenges posed by climate change. For one thing it gives us additional justification for continuing and strengthening our efforts in environmental stewardship in general and at our coasts and beaches in particular. Many people, when they hear or read about climate change, respond by thinking “This issue is just too big for me alone to deal with” or “Climate change doesn’t affect me or where I live”. But climate change is already ongoing, it is happening now and is not something that is going to start next year or in ten years time. Indeed climate has been changing through the millennia but now we have to come to terms with the fact that in addition to natural changes, climate is changing due to man’s activities particularly the burning of fossil fuels.
Climate change is affecting each one of us, sometimes in small insidious ways. For example the ice is thinner in the Canadian Arctic and as a result there is a much higher incidence of Inuit hunters falling through the ice; and residents in some tropical islands of the Caribbean are noticing that the dry seasons are lasting longer and longer each year. Small changes, yes, but they affect how we live our lives.
Should we panic? No. Should we listen, learn, understand and begin to adapt to climate change now? Yes.
Within the framework of Sandwatch we need to learn first hand about the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on our beaches and coasts, e.g. how will rising sea levels and more intense hurricanes affect our particular beach and will increasing temperatures affect turtle hatching? We need to do our research, share our findings and then take action.
Simple activities like establishing coastal forests may make a positive difference by reducing beach erosion and cooling sand temperatures. Other activities like conserving freshwater and turning out the lights, using renewable energy, driving less and walking more, sharing information with our communities, will help our planet, one step at a time. Let us work within the framework of our Sandwatch groups, schools, organizations, communities and countries to make a difference and to begin now to adapt to climate change.