Watching the coastline out of my kayak I try to imagine what is ahead of us. I try to envision how the predictions of the study will change what I am watching at. I cannot.
If you want to envision it yourself, take a look at my vlog on The Shrinking Coast of New Zealand.
I’m kayaking along the astonishing coast line of Abel Tasman National Park. This is my first stop in the Southern Island of New Zealand. And even if it won’t be the last, it can be the last time I will see this exactly the way it is now.
The Shrinking Coastline
Staring at the once rocky and then sandy marvellous coastline, backed by rainforest right behind it, I cannot imagine how this all is going to disappear. Probably sooner than we even can imagine.
Sea level is rising, and since New Zealand is no more than a huge island, it will be affected severely. So far, during the past 60 years, sea level rose 2.4mm a year in New Zealand. This might sound insignificant, yet this small number should be alarming, since it is already double the rise of the 60 years before.
Moreover, since climate change related effects are running exponential, this average rise of 2.4mm a year might more than double over the next decades. In addition, multiply 60 times 2.4mm, and you arrive at a rise of 14.4cm in the last 60 years only. Continue my logic, and my journey and you know where I am getting at.
Why each Millimetre Matters (a lot)
When I touch land, leave the kayak behind, and embark for a 10km+ walk, I feel privileged. Not only because of seeing the beautiful nature around me, with the incredible lush rainforest at one side and the turquoise blue ocean at the other side, but as well because the study I talked about says precisely this route will be taken soonish by the rising sea.
One might gaze with disbelief when I tell this, since we are talking about mm rise a year. Yet, there are various ways in which a rising sea level of a couple of mm can multiple its impact on the coast line.
First of all, sea level will literally rise, taking the first parts of the coastline, the lower laying parts, the most vulnerable parts.
But more importantly, this might increase its eroding effect on the coastline. Waves that smash both rocks and beaches take away a bit of rock and a bit of beach every single time they touch land. You know what they say about rivers: they don’t find their way by force, but by persistence. Every single movement of the sea will have a little impact on the coastline. Multiple that by the frequency and over time, and you can imagine how the coast is doomed. This effect is already visible, and many parts of coastal areas – not exclusively to New Zealand – are haven given back to the water already. Here in the New Zealand it becomes even more visible where fjords and other rocky coastlines are being cut out from down under. Every touch from the ocean takes away a little bit of the rocky material, and as an axe can cut an enormous tree by only knocking on the bottom of it, the sea eventually will cut the rock by only cutting on the bottom of it. One day this mass might break off of the bigger rock formation it makes part of, and slide into the ocean. Giving land back to water.
Yet, this is not the entire story. When we come to climate change, we know that extreme weather events will increase as well. Moreover, the warming sea will energise storms running over sea even more before they hit land. And guess what? The coastline will be the first defence line, hence suffering more erosion.
Hold back the River (Ocean)
So, I walk further on this disappearing path, trying to capture it all. Yet, while thinking at the same time on how we can stop this from happening. And you know what? We can stop this from happening still!
First of all, we should mitigate climate change and prevent the worse thing from happening, while in the meantime, we could make our coastlines more resilient, as I told in the stories of the Whitsunday Islands. Go and have a look back, step up for climate change, and act all together on this, because I hope many generations to come will be able to walk precisely on the pathway I am on now, to go kayaking and admire the astonishing coastline of Abel Tasman and all other marvellous coastlines around the world. Moreover, I hope many generations of island nations to be able to keep living where they are, on the lands of their ancestors, where they grew up and where the build their identity and memories. Because if we don’t step up now, these island nations will be forced to leave the place they call home.
But have a look yourself at how astonishing this coastline is and what is at risk at my vlog on The Shrinking Coastline of New Zealand.