Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tangier Island

Tangier Island, Virginia is home to a community of about 470 people. The close-knit community lives a simple life but the island faces the problem of major erosion caused by rising sea level. The effects of storms are becoming more severe as the sea level increases which is causing the entrance to the Western side of Tangier Island to widen. The widening exposes the island to bigger waves. The community is willing to try anything to slow the loss of their home land. They are currently implementing experimental buoys previously tested in labs of the U. S. Naval Academy. The innovative buoys have projecting fins and are larger than a person. The goal of the buoys is to reduce the wave's energy by slowing them down. Also underway are plans to build stone jetties beside Tangier Island. The state and federal government plan to spend $4.1 million on the jetty. Tangier Island is just one of many places under threat. As the pace of sea level rising accelerates, concern for future generations increases. According to studies, reducing carbon dioxide emissions will help slow the rate at which it rises but not stop it completely. If emissions continue at the rate they are going, sea level will increase 2 to 5 feet by 2100. If emissions are greatly cut, sea level is estimated to still increase 1 to 3.5 feet by 2100. Regardless, people are going to have to adapt to the increase in sea level. Cutting emissions will decrease the acceleration and buy time for adaptations for future generations. 
            As I was reading the articles I thought to myself, are there enough benefits to support continued costs of saving Tangier Island? There are about 500 people that could be saved by the installation of buoys and the jetty but these are not permanent solutions. Innovation like the jetty for instance, may not be effective once the sea level breaches a certain point. New costly innovations will need to be implemented in the future. The root of the problem is carbon emissions. I think the government should invest money into this which will not only help Tangier Island but many other people at risk from sea level increase.

Discussion Question: Do you think the government should spend money on innovations to combat the impacts of increasing water levels or should the government focus money on decreasing emissions?
--Kim Maier

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