Saturday, June 14, 2008

Disaster-prone deltas next climate risk, says ecologist

Reuters: Some of the world's most productive and populous places -- river deltas from the Mekong to the Mississippi -- are ripe for disasters made worse by climate change, an ecological catastrophe expert said. In fact, said marine biologist Deborah Brosnan, these disasters are already occurring.

Brosnan pointed to Myanmar's Irrawaddy Delta, ravaged by Cyclone Nargis in May. A couple centuries of human-generated transformation -- dams, rice paddies, the withdrawal of water -- combined with a dense, poor population and the effects of global warming created a triple threat, she said. "We think something that's so vast, like the Irrawaddy Delta ... can't be vulnerable, when actually it's the other way around: something so vast is the most vulnerable," Brosnan said in a telephone interview from Oregon on Wednesday.

The Irrawaddy Delta stretches across 8.6 million acres (3.5 million hectares) with a pre-Nargis population of about 6 million. That kind of population density is bound to make disasters more deadly when they hit, said Brosnan, president of Sustainable Ecosystems Institute, an organization of scientists and others aimed at solving ecological problems. Citing U.N. figures, she said 200 million people were affected by natural disasters in 2007, up 48 percent from 2006, and that "2007 was not necessarily considered a bad year."…

Lower Mississippi River, Baton Rouge to the Delta, in an 1862 map, Wikimedia Commons

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