Even climate change skeptics have to admit there’s something to be said for being prepared. The planners of Boston have taken that to heart and are embarking on long-term efforts to prepare the low-lying city for a rise in sea levels. Boston joins communities from Da Nang, Vietnam to San Francisco, London, Venice and Shanghai that have decided it’s better not to wait till the water is lapping at the doorjambs to get ready. From raising subway entrances to zoning changes to building massive and complex flood gates, city planners are looking at ways to adapt to what is sure to be a challenging future scenario.
At the same time, a report released last month claims that significant warming–aligning with predictions around climate change–has occurred in the upper layers of the planet’s oceans. The warming significantly increases the likelihood of more frequent and more intense storms, which in turn can increase damage, erosion and flooding.
Conditions on land are changing, too. A study released this month by UC-Berkeley demonstrates that the effects of climate change are causing vegetation to move toward cooler regions, with potentially disastrous effects. “The dieback of trees and shrubs in the Sahel leaves less wood for houses and cooking, while the contraction of Arctic tundra reduces habitat for caribou and other wildlife,” said study lead author Patrick Gonzalez, “Globally, vegetation shifts are disrupting ecosystems, reducing habitat for endangered species, and altering the forests that supply water and other services to many people.”
While the oil and chemistry industries fight rearguard actions to bolster climate change skeptics, the smart money is on being prepared.The time to start planning is now; environmental studies can take years to complete, and large infrastructure projects take decades.
At the current round of climate talks taking place this week in Bonn Germany, the pace of decision making is glacial. One witty insider is quoted by the Guardian in a satirical fake future “diary entry” from “Atlantis” in the year 2067, whose bite is all too apparent: “It’s a shame that 70 years after our grandfathers struck a deal in Kyoto in 1997, we still do not have a new global climate agreement. With 13.7 million people a year being forced to move inland it’s time to increase the quota of citizen transfer from the low to the high-altitude world by 40%.” Funny…sort of.
Good planning: Thames Flood Barrier
Photo:© Copyright Nick Dennison, licensed under Creative Commons