Q & A

'The sea is going to win': P.E.I. must prepare for climate change, says expert

Climate scientists suggest that in 50 years 50 per cent of Lennox Island could be under water - and Prince Edward Island residents must prepare for similar effects of climate change.

Director of climate lab says a moratorium on building could be imposed on coastal areas of P.E.I.

Coastal erosion is inevitable on an Island made of of sand and sandstone, says Adam Fenech. (Submitted by Lynse Allen)

A documentary on The National Wednesday night highlighted the effects that climate change and rising sea levels have had on the P.E.I. community of Lennox Island.

Climate scientists have said that 200 years ago, Lennox Island was 300 football fields bigger than it is today. In 50 years, they say, 50 per cent of Lennox Island could be underwater.

On Lennox Island off the coast of P.E.I., no one debates whether climate change is real, CBC's Nick Purdon reports 11:09

But Lennox Island isn't the only place susceptible to coastal erosion, Adam Fenech, director of the climate lab at the University of Prince Edward Island, told Bruce Rainnie on CBC News: Compass Thursday.

Here's some of what he had to say.

Adam Fenech, director of the climate lab at the University of Prince Edward Island, says when it comes to coastal erosion, 'Eventually the sea is going to win.' (CBC)

How do you prepare for climate change?

If it's coastal erosion, there's really only two major things you can do. You can retreat, move your property if it's under threat. Or armour. But there's a problem with armouring because here on P.E.I. we don't have any hard stone so we have to import it from off-Island. It's quite expensive. And in the long run, it doesn't really work. Eventually the sea is going to win.

How much is Lennox Island losing to erosion?

It looks like just over one hectare per year has been lost to the sea, and that's quite a significant amount of land.

Why is Lennox Island so vulnerable?

It's very, very low-lying. It's beautiful for growing blueberries and has a lot of sacred value to the Mi'kmaq community, but it's very susceptible to flooding. Much like most of Prince Edward Island, it's just made up of sand and sandstone so it's going to eventually disappear. That's what happens.

Are there areas on P.E.I. that should no longer be developed?

The government of P.E.I. wants to look at some of those areas and do those types of assessments. Over the next few years we're going to be identifying those publicly and then working together with the community to see if we can put a moratorium on development in these areas. It usually means the area itself is susceptible to certain types of tidal events and storm surges.

What do you say to people who think climate change is a hoax?

I'd say come to Lennox Island and I'll show you some of the changes that have occurred. Lennox Island is very demonstrative of the changes that are occurring here on the East Coast. There are even bigger changes that are going on in Canada's far north. You just need to visit and you need to talk to the people. Some of them will tell you we've seen things like this over the last 100 years and it's no different but most will be telling you about unprecedented changes. Things like "We used to play baseball out where those boats are docked."

With files from CBC News: Compass