UN warns climate change is drowning Senegal

Jan 28, 2014
A man jumps over a pond of stagnant water in the suburbs of Dakar on October 9, 2008

The United Nations' head of disaster risk warned Tuesday that flooding caused by climate change had become an emergency in Senegal, with some towns finding themselves underwater for large parts of the year.

Margareta Wahlstrom, on a three-day visit as part of preparations for a new global disaster risk-reduction strategy, told AFP she had met mayors of coastal and riverside towns who said their streets were flooded ten months out of 12.

"There is a huge pressure for action. I think particularly the flooding issue is so critical... because it's very acute," said Wahlstrom, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction.

"Listening to the mayors today, some of them were saying 'we are underwater ten months out of 12'. I think that says everything. That's acute and it's why the country is giving full attention and full priority to flooding.

"The quicker the cities are growing, the more acute the problem will become."

Wahlstrom, speaking on the sidelines of a news conference in Dakar, said she had witnessed the impact of climate change on a trip to St Louis, a northern archipelago in the mouth of the Senegal River often referred to as the "Venice of Africa".

In 2008, Alioune Badiane of the UN-Habitat agency designated St Louis as "the city most threatened by rising sea levels in the whole of Africa", citing climate change and a failed 2003 canal project as the cause.

The city is plagued by flooding during the rainy season when the river overflows and scientists say is exacerbating the problem with increasingly heavy rain and a rise in the sea level.

After the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed almost 230,000 people in 2004, the UN general assembly agreed the Hyogo Framework for Action (HFA), in which 168 countries put their names to a 10-year commitment to disaster risk reduction.

Hyogo called for a one-percent allocation of national development budgets to risk reduction, along with 10 percent of humanitarian aid and 10 percent of reconstruction and recovery funds.

The HFA is set to be renewed in 2015, giving a greater role to private companies, which the UN sees as crucial as trillions of dollars are set to pour into "hazard-exposed" regions like west Africa.

Wahlstrom praised Senegal as an example of a nation taking an integrated approach to disaster risk through education, health services and urban planning but warned more action was necessary.

But Home minister Abdoulaye Daouda Diallo said a lack of nationwide coordination on civil protection remained a "major weakness" in the running of the country.

"We are thinking of setting up an office to provide more resources but we think we already have the means to put in place a national plan that can coordinate all government actions in the context of disaster risk management."

Explore further: Changing landscapes, not global warming, to blame for increased flood risk

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aksdad
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2014
Apparently the head of U.N. Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlstrom, is unaware of the many local environmental factors in Senegal that exacerbate flooding in coastal areas: a high water table, coastal erosion from indiscriminate clearing of mangrove swamps, poverty, and poor infrastructure and drainage systems to manage floods. Wealthy countries and cities build dams, dikes and canals to mitigate flooding and protect coastal barriers like mangrove swamps. Poor countries don't.

As for the claim that the major problem is "flooding caused by climate change", the data says otherwise. NOAA says global sea level rise measured from tide gauges between 1870 and 2004 was 1.46 mm a year (5.75" a century). From 1950 to 2009, it was about 1.7 mm a year (6.7" a century), a statistically insignificant increase of 0.24 mm a year, well within the margin of error (which is usually 0.8 to 0.99 mm). NOAA says the rate is essentially the same from 2005 to 2012.
aksdad
2.7 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2014
However, the sea level rise measured by the TOPEX and Jason satellites from 1993 to 2013 shows a 3.2 mm per year trend (12.6" a century). This disparity between tide gauge and satellite measurements was analyzed recently using satellite data from the GRACE mission and it was found that the tide gauge trend of about 1.7 mm a year is probably the more correct. The reason scientists claimed sea level rise was accelerating in recent decades (since 1993) is because of the disparity in trend between the TOPEX/Jason satellite data and tide gauge data.

See:

http://www.ipcc.c...5-2.html

and

http://sealevel.c...ea-level
smithie
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2014
It seems a little foolish for the UN to claim Climate change driving disaster in the face of economic and infrastructural problems, there is greater benefit in calling a spade a spade then digging trenches.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2014
Margareta Wahlstrom, is unaware of the many local environmental factors in Senegal that exacerbate flooding in coastal areas
I doubt that is the case. Part of the problem for Senegal and a number of other island nations is that they will be more heavily impacted by rising sea levels due to climate change specifically BECAUSE of the problems that they are already wrestling with.
As for the claim that the major problem is "flooding caused by climate change", the data says otherwise.
What NOAA reports are you looking at? From here: http://oceanservi...vel.html
Records and research show that sea level has been steadily rising at a rate of 1 to 2.5 millimeters (0.04 to 0.1 inches) per year since 1900.
and
Since 1992, new methods of satellite altimetry (the measurement of elevation or altitude) indicate a rate of rise of 3 millimeters (0.12 inches) per year.
I think you may have misinterpreted your sources.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2014
However, the sea level rise measured by the TOPEX and Jason satellites from 1993 to 2013 shows a 3.2 mm per year trend (12.6" a century)
This is accurate, see here: http://sealevel.colorado.edu/
...analyzed recently using satellite data from the GRACE mission and it was found that the tide gauge trend of about 1.7 mm a year is probably the more correct.
Analyzed by who? Source please.
The reason scientists claimed sea level rise was accelerating in recent decades (since 1993) is because of the disparity in trend between the TOPEX/Jason satellite data and tide gauge data.
Which seems perfectly reasonable given the more precise measurements coming from the satellite data. If anything, the trend being measured by the satellites would seem to be the more reliable, given they have been measuring the rise for the last 20 years and those measurements are showing a clearly increasing trend.
Maggnus
5 / 5 (1) Jan 29, 2014
Finally, I note the IPCC report (which you referenced) also discusses the problems in using tide-gauge data thus:
The TAR mentioned the developing geodetic technologies (especially the Global Positioning System; GPS) that hold the promise of measuring rates of vertical land movement at tide gauges, no matter if those movements are due to GIA or to other geological processes. Although there has been some model validation, especially for GIA models, systematic problems with such techniques, including short data spans, have yet to be fully resolved.
So, again, it seems to me that given the challenges in determining the actual values of sea level rise using tide gauges, that the more precise satellite data is probably the more correct.