Thursday, October 13, 2016

Adapting to Sea Level Rise

We will need to adapt to rising sea levels, even if we do what we must to curb GHG emissions. Things like sea barriers and flood-prevention efforts would help minimize the risk in some areas. There are places in the world where this work is already beginning. Miami Beach is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to install pumps and raise sea walls and roads.

Jakarta is investing $40 billion to build temporary protection measures for the short term while they build a new enclosure dam. U.S. cities are also beginning to work on projects to adapt to rising sea levels.

As reported by Ben Adler in a Grist article, the bay-side city of Boston is preparing to deal with inundation of its low-lying waterfront neighborhoods including South Boston. Overall nearly one in five homes could be at risk from sea level rise in Boston unless more protections are put in place.

To prepare for these higher seas, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is preparing the way with a program he is calling "Climate Ready Boston." He has commissioned a team of experts to examine research on how sea-level rise and increased storm surges will threaten Boston and then propose resilience strategies such as new building codes. This will include seawalls and elevate buildings in some areas, as well as "passive" solutions such as permeable streets.

Even though the military has identified sea level rise as a serious threat, Republicans are putting partisan political interests ahead of national security. The GOP controlled Congress has blocked efforts by the military to adapt to flooding from climate change. A Republican congressman from Colorado, Ken Buck called one military proposal part of a "radical climate change agenda." He also said, "When we distract our military with a radical climate change agenda, we detract from their main purpose of defending America from enemies" like the Islamic State, Buck said.

However, the problem is so bad that even some Republicans are breaking ranks and investing in adaptation efforts consistent with climate predictions for sea level rise.

"I’m a Republican, but I also realize, by any objective analysis, the sea level is rising," said Jason Buelterman, the mayor of tiny Tybee Island, one of the first Georgia communities to adopt a detailed climate plan.

Municipalities are hiring “chief resilience officers,” an idea pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York, which is paying some of the salary cost. In Miami Beach, the city engineer, Bruce A. Mowry, is raising street levels and installing drains and pumps to prepare for flooding. Miami Beach plans to spend at least $400 million on its plan by 2018. Miami-Dade County, is developing its own resilience strategy that is expected to cost billions.

James C. Cason, the Republican mayor of Coral Gables, has convened informational sessions that draw hundreds of residents, and he has received no complaints for his stance.

Philip K. Stoddard the mayor of South Miami is investing $50 million system on sewer pipes to replace septic tanks threatened by the rising water table.

"You can play it really badly and let unpleasant things happen earlier,” he said. “Or you can push them off by doing some infrastructure repairs and some thoughtful planning. We’re putting enough heat in the ocean to send water over us, no question,” Dr. Stoddard said. “Ultimately, we give up and we leave. That’s how the story ends."

As reported by Brady Denis in a Washington Post article, Benjamin Strauss, director of the program on sea-level rise at Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists based in New Jersey, said we must cut carbon emissions and employ adaptation measures to protect coastal areas.

"If we don’t do something," he said,"“we’re paving the way for a lot of hurt in the future."

New Federal Flood Risk Management Standard requires that all federally funded projects located in floodplains, including buildings and roads, be built to withstand flooding.

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