Arctic Scientists See Faster Melting, Higher Floodwaters for Philadelphia Area

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Two of the world’s leading experts on the ice melting in the Arctic came to town today to tell what they’ve seen, and to demonstrate the implications for the Philadelphia/Camden region. They released the most detailed maps and video animations yet of exactly what could go under water this century in this area.

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But I’m also concerned with the effect on Camden. As someone who once represented New Jersey in the U.S. Congress, I can tell you that this city would be devastated by that much change. Much of the area closest to the river will be swamped with water if we don’t take action now to avert this disaster.

Two of the world’s leading experts on the ice melting in the Arctic came to town today to tell what they’ve seen, and to demonstrate the implications for the Philadelphia/Camden region. They released the most detailed maps and video animations yet of exactly what could go under water this century in this area.

According to the scientists, the old estimates for rising seas due to global warming were overly optimistic. Fresh data from the poles now indicates between three and four feet or more of rise by the year 2100 or sooner, which will have much more of an impact on Philadelphia and the nation, they said. The scientists followed up with a graphic demonstration at the water’s edge of how high the water could get in just a few decades.

Dr. Gordon Hamilton, a research professor at The University of Maine, and Dr. Asa Rennermalm, a professor at Rutgers, are active in current research on the rapid decline of the Greenland ice sheet. They presented their findings at The Wagner Free Institute.

“Nothing compares to being in a small boat, slowly sailing through the glassy waters of a glacial fjord and being surrounded by icebergs larger than the town I live in. And to know that these icebergs are being calved off the ice sheet at a rate three times faster now than just a few years ago,” said Dr. Hamilton.

Those melting icebergs will have far-reaching effects, according to the scientists. To demonstrate, Dr. Andrew Maguire, a former N. J. congressman, went to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden, N.J. Donning a pair of hip boots, he went to the water’s edge and raised the Hula Hoop to near his knees, representing the previous estimate by the Nobel prize-winning scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that sea levels would rise approximately 17.3 inches this century. Slowly, as he spoke, he moved the hoop to his waist and then his chest, representing the new range of the rising seas now expected.

“The impacts of a meter of sea-level rise for Philadelphia's physical and economic infrastructure would be very dire,” said Rep. Maguire, with most of the city's transportation facilities needing protection that would cost billions of dollars. “But I’m also concerned with the effect on Camden. As someone who once represented New Jersey in the U.S. Congress, I can tell you that this city would be devastated by that much change. Much of the area closest to the river will be swamped with water if we don’t take action now to avert this disaster.”    

The speakers recommended a three-pronged approach to addressing climate change:

  •     First, they advocate doing what we can to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases to lessen future global warming, with personal actions at home to reduce energy use and by supporting our society’s conversion to clean energy and ultra-efficient homes, vehicles, appliances, and factories.
  •     Second, support both Federal legislation to cap carbon dioxide emissions and reduce them through a cap-and-trade mechanism and US involvement in international efforts to control black carbon from diesel, methane, and tropospheric ozone emissions scientists believe are accelerating Arctic warming and melting.
  •     Finally, they said, we need to begin planning for the infrastructure changes needed to mitigate or minimize the impact on our cities and adapt as much as possible to the climate change from the greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere, such as by respecting a “new flood plain” and preparing to move back from the rising ocean and building sea walls.

The event was part of the “Hip Boot Tour,” which will visit coastal cities from Miami, Fla., to Portland, Maine to inform and educate Americans about the direct impact they will face from melting ice caused by global warming. The tour will bring leading scientists from their research stations in the Arctic through the cities before culminating with events in New York City and Washington, D.C.

The stop in Philadelphia was sponsored by Clean Air-Cool Planet, the leading science-based, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated solely to finding and promoting solutions to global warming. It was cosponsored in this area by the Clean Air Council, a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone's right to breathe clean air, and the Wagner Free Institute of Science, a museum and educational institution offering a range of programs for visiting school groups.

For more information, see the Hip Boot Tour website.

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