Why is sea level rising?
Seas around the globe are rising because of human-caused climate change. Climate change is leading to a warmer Earth resulting in thermal expansion of water molecules in the oceans and melting ice caps and glaciers. In the Maritimes sea level is increased by subsidence, or the sinking of coastal lands. Lands are sinking here because a huge heavy glacier used to cover Canada but since it began retreating, the edges of the continent have begun to sink (just like when you jump on a bed and the edges of the mattress move up and down!). Subsidence contributes 5-10% to the projected relative sea-level change by 2100 and makes our region more vulnerable to sea level rise.
How fast will sea level rise and by how much?
Due to emissions forcasts and subsidence, the latest scientific research predicts sea levels around New Brunswick may rise by 1 metre or more by 2100. There is time to prepare, adapt, retreat where needed, and use nature-based approaches (see below).
What could happen?
- Salt water intrusion into wells
- Increased coastal erosion
- Low-lying coastal communities could flood before the end of the century
- Permanent submergence of areas of coastline
- Transportation routes cut off
- Trade and commerce impacted due to the rail line and Trans Canada Highway that run through the low lying Chignecto Isthmus region
- Storm surges will be higher and more devastating
What can we do about it?
There are things we can all do to prepare, adapt and take action against rising sea levels:
- Explore sea level rise maps for your region and get to know the risks
- Attend sea level rise and flood risk reduction workshops to learn more
- Flood proof your home if necessary
- Have an emergency kit and be prepared to evacuate in the event of a storm surge
- Think before you build or buy
- Build back from the coast and build higher if you have the chance
- Keep trees and shrubs in place to help anchor your shoreline
- Plant hardy vegetation to manage erosion (see a plant list below)
- Don’t mow up to the shoreline or riverbanks
- Plant a natural buffer between you and the water
- Join an environmental group in your area to help take action and address climate change and sea level rise
How can we slow down sea level rise?
We need to work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions globally:
- Save energy at home and work (turn things off when not in use, insulate walls, basements and attics, etc.)
- Use energy more efficiently (perform energy retrofits, purchase Energy Star appliances, switch to more efficient heating like heat pumps, etc.)
- Support renewable energy – invest in community projects, go solar at home and at work. (Did you know the sun delivers more energy to Earth in one hour than humanity consumes over the course of a year!)
- Find ways to leave fossil fuels in the ground
- Green your ride – travel less, take the bus, carpool, bike, go electric
- Get involved and support organizations making e a difference
- Vote for political representatives who share your values and will implement the changes you want to see
How can nature help?
Nature can help us adapt to rising sea levels:
- Natural shorelines (e.g. trees, shrubs, grasses, etc.) help stabilize & protect shorelines from erosion.
- Salt marshes help reduce wave energy and can rise as the sea rises.
- Dunes systems help absorb wave action and storm surges.
What to plant for a natural coastal shoreline?
Naturally stabilize your shoreline by planting a variety of native, salt tolerant plants:
- American Mountain Ash
- White Spruce
- Trembling Aspen
- Tamarack/Hackmatack/Eastern Larch
- Black Elderberry
- Wild Rose
- Bay Berry
- Spotted Joe Pye Weed
- Spartina Grass/Cord Grass (for salt marsh areas)
- Marram Grass (for dunes areas)
- American Beach Grass
- Spiraea/Meadow Sweet/Steeple Bush
Did you know?
- 60% of New Brunswickers live within 50kms of the coast
- New Brunswick has 5,500kms of coast line
Sea Level Rise Signs
Look for educational sea level rise signs across the Chignecto Isthmus in spring 2021 in Cape Jourimain, Port Elgin, Baie Verte and Johnson’s Mills. They show a historic coastal flood level and what the same storm could look like in 2100 with sea level rise. Here is an example of one of the signs:
Memramcook-Tantramar Area Flood Risk Maps:
Memramcook flood risk map (2013) The map shows current (blue) and future (purple) 100 year flood events in Memramcook. Flood depths equal 7.58 m and 8.6 m respectively.
Source for above maps: EOS Eco-Energy Climate Change Toolkit
Note: 1:100 year storm is a storm that has a 1% chance of happening any time.
You can find out more at:
- Government of New Brunswick’s Climate Change Page
- Sea Level Rise and Flooding Estimates for New Brunswick (Daigle, 2020)
- New Brunswick Areas Coastal Protection Policy (2019)
- Coastal Zone’s Canada’s Cold Regions Living Shorelines Community of Practice
- Ecology Action Centre’s Living Shoreline Resource Page