Taiwan's sea levels rising faster than global average

Taiwan 'has only 12 years left to relocate capital' from rising sea levels: meteorologist

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View of Taipei skyline from Elephant Mountain. (Photo by Sanjaya Bhanu)

View of Taipei skyline from Elephant Mountain. (Photo by Sanjaya Bhanu)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan's sea levels are rising at a higher rate than the rest of the world due to global warming, and the country may only have 12 years to move its capital inland to avoid flooding, according to a prominent meteorologist.

Sea levels around Taiwan are likely to rise faster than the global average due to the island's sub-tropical location, the rotation of the earth, the high sea temperatures in the Western Pacific Ocean, and the convergence of seawater and the thermal expansion effect, reported TechOrange.

Air Clean Taiwan (ACT) Director Yeh Guang-peng (葉光芃) told TechOrange that "The UK has reduced carbon for six consecutive years and its carbon levels have been restored to 1888 levels, yet the UK has still declared an emergency. However, Taiwan's CO2 emissions are increasing, and we [Taiwan, UK] are all islands, so our sea level will rise much higher than that of other countries."

Radio Taiwan International cited NGO Taiwan Action Alliance for Healthy Air (台灣健康空氣行動聯盟), as saying that the average global temperature is set to rise by one degree Celsius, while Taiwan is on a course to rise by 1.4 degrees, and Taipei is expected to rise by 1.7 degrees. This means that if the global average temperature rises by 1.5 degrees in 2030, Tapei will probably rise by over 2 degrees.

If the global temperature rises by 2 degrees by 2050, that means Taipei could see its average temperature rise by 3 to 4 degrees.

Chen Chao-lun (陳昭倫), a researcher at Academia Sinica's Biodiversity Research Center (BRC) told TechOrange that the sea around Taiwan is warming at one of the fastest rates in the world. Chen added that even if humans are able to restrict warming to within 1.5 degrees, 90 percent of the world's coral reefs will disappear.

Yeh also put forward specific examples. If the temperature rises by 2 degrees in 2050, the Taipei Songshan Airport and Dazhi luxury residential area will be inundated with sea water. Yeh predicts that in this scenario, planes will not be able to take off and land from Songshan Airport, and the New Taipei section of the Taoyuan Airport MRT would collapse.

The Taiwan Action Alliance for Healthy Air also predicts that by the end of the 21st Century, the Taipei Basin will be flooded to a height of three meters. They said that about one-third of the land in Greater Taipei would be underwater.

In the future, out of Taiwan's six major cities, the NGO predicts that only Taoyuan and Taichung would survive. Because Taipei lies in a basin, it aggravates the heat island effect, resulting in an even more rapid temperature rise, according to the organization.

The NGO said that if the rising sea reaches the Taipei Basin, the flood waters will be difficult to discharge because of the city's geographical layout. In addition, earthquakes brought on by climate change could aggravate the disaster in the basin.

In an interview with Formosa Television, Peng Chi-ming (彭啟明), an adjunct assistant professor with the National Central University's Department of Atmospheric Sciences, said, "The temperature rise may reach 1.5 degrees in 2032, so we only have 12 years left to relocate the capital. So we must act quickly."

The Taiwan Action Alliance for Healthy Air and climate change scholars are jointly calling on Taiwan's government to actively implement carbon reduction policies and consider immediately launching a plan to move the city of Taipei to higher ground.