Study: Seaports unready for climate change

May 16, 2011 at 5:33 PM

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 16 (UPI) -- Most of the world's seaports are unprepared for possible damage from climate change in the coming century and need to create plans for it, U.S. researchers say.

Researchers at Stanford University who surveyed port authorities around the globe found most were unsure what steps to take to protect their facilities from rising sea levels and more frequent hurricane-strength storms, a Stanford release reported Monday.

"Part of the problem is that science says that by 2100, we'll experience anywhere from 1.5 to 6 feet of sea level rise," researcher Austin Becker said. "That's a huge range."

Port authorities have to make tough financial decisions when it comes to funding infrastructure, he said.

They need accurate predictions of possible impacts because a structure to withstand a 6-foot sea level rise would cost much more than one to accommodate a 1.5-foot rise, Becker said.

Although a majority of survey respondents ranked sea level rise and increased storm events associated with climate change high on their list of concerns, only 6 percent said they planned to build hurricane barriers within the next 10 years, and fewer than 18 percent had plans to build dikes or other storm protection structures.

Becker said plans to prepare for climate change and its effects are vital.

"As we saw with Katrina in 2005, storm and flood damage can devastate a regional economy for years after an event and have national impacts."

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