By Melissa Heald
Feb. 13, 2014
While teaching at the University of Toronto, Adam Fenech was approached by Alex Chen, a former student of his now attending Simon Fraser University.
Fenech recalls Chen asking him about the access he had to specific data the student wanted to use to program a game that would show how the sea level would rise over the terrain of Prince Edward Island.
Fenech thought the idea was interesting.
After first doing an example for a class project, Fenech hired Chen, along with fellow student Andrew Doiron, to create what would become CLIVE, a program that combines science with video game technology.
Today, Fenech is the director of the climate lab at UPEI and he introduced CLIVE – Coastal Impact Visualization Environment – to about 150 people in an amphitheatre at the Duffy Science Centre on the UPEI campus on Feb.11.
A fine resolution digital elevation model, CLIVE will allow Islanders to see changes in elevation caused by future sea level rise.
Over the last century, the sea level has risen 36 centimetres and it is projected to rise by a metre by 2100.
Fenech said CLIVE would allow people to see how the rise of the sea will affect the Island by immersing them into an environment and then changing it for them visually.
“It (CLIVE) has shown to invoke a different understanding than reading something on a page or showing somebody a chart or graph.”
Fenech said the intention is to have something based on science and not be completely unrealistic but also to invoke a response from people.
“I want people to know what the magnitude of change is and to understand they shouldn’t be building things so close to the sea as they do.”
The plan is to have CLIVE available on the Internet, something Greg Lipton of Blue Ocean Real Estate said would just be another tool in the tool chest for him and his clients.
The vice-president of P.E.I.’s Realtor Association, Lipton and about a 100 of his fellow colleagues were in attendance to hear Fenech speak and to see CLIVE in action.
After a quick discussion with the president of the association, both decided this would be the best thing for any realtor to know, as this is something that’s going to affect their business, said Lipton.
“If we are selling waterfront homes, we should be able to tell people how far back they can put their house.”
Lipton said a lot of people who move to an island want to buy waterfront property.
“So it’s our responsibility representing those clients to let them know exactly what the erosion rate is and how quickly they can expect things to disappear.”
If they still want to buy waterfront property, that is no problem because it’s still going to be good for 20 – 25 years but all they have to do is build their home a little further back, said Lipton.
Lipton said the presentation was definitely worthwhile and encouraged any realtor to go online once CLIVE is launched.
“I can’t wait until CLIVE goes live online so I can check it out and show my clients.”
Before demonstrating CLIVE to the audience, Fenech first gave a lecture on the impact of coastal erosion and sea level rise on the Island.
Due to P.E.I.’s sensitive sandstone coastline, rising sea levels, falling land, lack of ice coverage and increased storms have all combined to increase coastal erosion on the Island, said Fenech.
Fenech said Islanders don’t have to be convinced that erosion is happening on the Island because he has heard from many Islanders telling him about how much the shoreline has receded since they were children.
Using historical data from aerial pictures taken from 1963 to 2010, Fenech said over 20 square kilometres of land has been lost over those 43 years, nearly half the size of Charlottetown.
But Fenech stressed that the erosion occurring on the Island is a slow process and the province is in no danger of disappearing.
But cottages, lighthouses and infrastructure located near the shore are in danger of being lost, said Fenech.