Sunday, May 18, 2014

Climate Change Will Force Us to Abandon Coastal Cities. We'd Better Start Preparing Right Now. By Danny Vinik

(The New Republic) On Monday, the New York Times reported on two new climate change studies that came to the same, terrifying conclusion: “The heat-trapping gases could destabilize other parts of Antarctica as well as the Greenland ice sheet, potentially causing enough sea-level rise that many of the world’s coastal cities would eventually have to be abandoned.”


While actual abandonment would not happen for many years (we’re talking centuries), the studies warned that our actions now are irrevocable and will lock in these future sea level rises. In other words, our descendants will be dealing with irreversible damage that we are committing today.

So, fast forward a few centuries from now, what will the world look like? What will the United States look like? Will people still live in Miami? Boston? New York? We don’t know what technology we will have then and we aren’t able to predict the pattern of storms. We do know that sea levels are rising and will threaten cities along the coasts of the United States.

“Barring some extraordinary advances in technology that we currently do not foresee,” Robert Hartwig, the president of the Insurance Information Institute, said, “you are left with the options of retreating from coastal areas not only in the United States, but around the world, or building fortifications against rising sea levels that would make the projects that we now see in places like the Netherlands look like child’s play.”

The Dutch government has set aside one billion euros a year through 2100 to strengthen dunes and dams throughout the country. Due to its low-lying position, the Netherlands is one of the most at-risk countries and has already crafted a long-term strategy to ensure the country’s survival. But in the United States, where one of our two main political parties remains skeptical about man-made climate change, such planning is unlikely to happen.

“If you have a plan and vision to stay there it is more likely to occur,” Robert Nicholls, a professor of coastal engineering at the University of Southampton, wrote in an email. “But USA does not have a planning culture.”

Planning will not come cheap. The mitigation techniques needed to fortify a city like Miami will cost billions of dollars, if not more. State and local governments will undoubtedly turn to the federal government for help, but that will be a political nightmare. Americans from non-coastal regions will likely object to paying for the restoration and fortification of coastal cities that are no longer naturally fit for habitation ... Read the full article by Danny Vinik in The  New Republic

Author: Danny Vinik, staff writer│The Republic
Video: This animation shows glacier changes detected by ATM, ICESat and ice bridge data in the highly dynamic Amundsen Embayment of West Antarctica. Integrating these altimetry sources allows us to estimate surface height changes throughout the drainage regions of the most important glaciers in the region. We see large elevation changes at the coast on Thwaites glacier, at the center of the images, and large and accelerating elevation changes extending inland from the coast on Pine Island and Smith glaciers, to the left and right of the images, respectivelyNASA


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