Many large, prosperous cities in the United States are situated along the coast. This has been relatively non-problematic until recent years, when storms, hurricanes, floods, and other climate-related threats, such as rising sea levels, have begun to increase their impacts on these cities.
The cost of even building limited sea walls is ridiculously high, and the government can’t wear the cost for every city that happens to be in a danger zone.
The reality of the debate over disaster mitigation funding at this point is which cities should be saved first, if at all?
The New York Times reports:
“New research offers one way to look at the enormity of the cost as policymakers consider how to choose winners and losers in the race to adapt to climate change. By 2040, simply providing basic storm-surge protection in the form of sea walls for all coastal cities with more than 25,000 residents will require at least $42 billion, according to new estimates from the Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental advocacy group. Expanding the list to include communities smaller than 25,000 people would increase that cost to more than $400 billion.
“Once you get into it, you realize we’re just not going to protect a lot of these places,” said Richard Wiles, executive director of the group, which wants oil and gas companies to pay some of the cost of climate adaptation. “This is the next wave of climate denial — denying the costs that we’re all facing. “
Many more steps would need to be implemented even to construct sea walls, such as revamping pretty much every subsection of water infrastructure within the flood-risk areas.
Even the thought of such an undertaking is daunting, particularly in terms of cost to the taxpayers. Officials predict that those cities undertaking such projects will see surges in employment and lead the country into the future.
Many cities will get left behind and eventually abandoned when the weather takes its toll.
Only so many places can be protected, and the criteria for that protection will be down to the sustainability of the area and whether it is easy to protect it or not.
The general advice for cities in these positions of vulnerability would be to start taking measures to protect themselves – if they wait for definitive evidence of climate change or government support, it may all be too late.
An article from the World Economic Forum shows what other coastal countries are doing to mitigate the impacts of sea-level rise (SLR) and coastal flooding.
According to the report, rising sea levels will affect 90% of all coastal areas worldwide. The majority of people affected by SLR by 2050 will live in East or Southeast Asia.
The article says that those living in the U.S. East and Gulf coasts and the so-called “delta-cities” in other countries will be equally vulnerable.
According to the article, there are three main approaches that these cities are doing to protect themselves:
- using hard engineering projects like sea walls, surge barriers, water pumps, and overflow chambers;
- environmental strategies like land recovery, mangrove, and wetland restoration;
- and the third “involves people-oriented measures including urban design, building resilience and retreating after all other options have been exhausted.”
Successful SLR mitigation and coastal protection examples include the following: the Dutch famous Maeslant Barrier, Chinese sponge cities, Jakarta’s massive wall, Bangkok’s canal network and underground containers, and New Orlean’s massive dam barriers and reinforced levees and floodwalls.