Thursday, October 23, 2014

San Francisco Rising to Threat of Swelling Seas

San Francisco's downtown was built along its waterfront. (Credit: Sudheendra Vijayakumar/flickr) Click to enlarge.
The fog of uncertainty cast by rising seas is starting to lift from $25 billion worth of public projects planned in San Francisco.

The City by the (rising) Bay, where bayfront shorelines will continue to experience worsening high tide flooding, where the nearby international airport is among the nation’s most vulnerable to floods, and where Pacific Ocean shoreline erosion could be accelerated by sea level rise, has adopted a first-in-the-nation approach to assessing potential infrastructure risks posed by rising seas.

The new guidance, which includes a simple project checklist, will help officials incorporate sea level rise into decisions about building and upgrading everything from pipes to police stations to streets.  Seas have risen 8 inches since industry started burning fossil fuels, although long-term ocean cycles have temporarily spared the West Coast from some of those impacts in recent decades.  Two or three more feet of sea level rise is forecast globally this century.
In the U.S., much of the work needed to adapt to climate change and improve resilience is occurring within cities, a trend that’s being pushed along by 100 Resilient Cities and similar initiatives.  Following Hurricane Sandy, New York launched a $19.5 billion climate resiliency plan, and just this month it released new building guidelines for those living in floodplains.

The Georgetown Climate Center recently concluded that 14 U.S. states have adaptation plans in place, and another nine have some planning underway.  President Obama has proposed spending $1 billion in 2015 on climate resilience at the federal level.  The U.S. has not yet committed anything to what is imagined to eventually be a $100 billion a year Green Climate Fund, designed to help the world’s poor and developing countries adapt to climate change, though it has been reported that a pledge might be made next month.  So far, the fund has raised about $2.3 billion from other national donors.

Read More at San Francisco Rising to Threat of Swelling Seas

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