Across the US, adaptation is underway as homes and coastlines crumble. They’re forced to defend against a changing climate. From Boston to Boca Raton, the heat is on to build new protections against a rising tide, especially in the wake of one of the most powerful storms to hit the US in decades: superstorm Sandy. Jim Cantore, pictured below with the waves of Sandy moving towards the ground he was on, stated that the storm put an exclamation point on the fact we need to rethink how to build our coastlines.
The projections for sea level rise vary greatly from city to city, but the averages in the graph below give a stark idea about what’s ahead. Sea levels have risen from anywhere from 12 inches to 6 feet over the last 100 years, depending on the geography. Even the low-end projections for future sea levels would cause major changes to our coastlines.
In New York, former Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a $20 billion plan to address these growing threats. He said “We can’t completely climate-proof our city, but we can make our city stronger and safer.” The plan included massive sea walls, storm barriers and upgrades to the city’s infrastructure, as seen below. Similar plans will likely be required in cities nation-wide, but not everyone agrees we’ve even begun to face the looming dangers. One person posed the question: We can’t even respond in a sensible fashion to hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, so how can we pretend we are ready to begin adapting to future sea level rise?
So, can we build our way out of rising sea levels? It comes to down to economics, financial ability, and willingness to pay. The country can’t afford to spend $60 billion every year to rebuild the damaged cities, so change needs to happen in a smart and sensible fashion, and soon.