Sunday, November 16, 2014

‘Nobody Is Truly Ready’ for Rise of Seas

A king tide floods a street in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2012. (Credit: Forsaken Fotos/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
Abandon Seaside!  Globe is Flooding!  Invest in Arks!

So might scream tabloid headlines had news of projections for rising seas, which were contained in a bumper climate report published a week ago by the United Nations, been, well, new.  They weren’t.  They were a synthesis of previously published research on a decades-old topic.  So the latest ringing of multi-decade flood warnings was engulfed in a wash of more general global warming coverage.

But the sea level figures in the report, while not new to experts (and, by many expert accounts, dangerously lowballed), were nonetheless remarkable — and worthy of urgent reflection.

The report warns that coastal property and infrastructure could be a foot lower in just a few decades than is the case today, portending an unprecedented crisis for which the nation appears to be frightfully ill-prepared.  U.S. coastal cities, established in centuries past when seas were 8 inches lower than they are today, are now flooding regularly during high tides.  Despite decades of research and warnings, little has been done to defend against the slow-motion marine invasion of landlubbers’ territory.

“The statistics make clear that people keep moving to the coast, indeed, that people keep moving to Miami, even as the flooding there becomes more regular,” Bill McKibben, a prominent writer who has dedicated himself to raising the profile of climate change, told Climate Central.  “I think people imagine that this problem will happen slowly, but it's already well underway.”

Preparedness is improving, albeit at a pace that would seem to rival the gradual rise of the oceans.

A hodgepodge of local, state and national initiatives, while so far woefully insufficient to protect infrastructure and neighborhoods from swelling flood risks, are starting to attempt to adapt to meet the challenges they present.  Strategies include efforts to restore marshlands to buffer floods, to raise seawalls to keep pace with sea level, and to retreat from coastlines.

Read More at ‘Nobody Is Truly Ready’ for Rise of Seas

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