Dr. Jay Gulledge on what rising seas mean for the U.S.
“There’s a pressing issue for the US economy that barely gets a mention: the soaring costs America might face in generations to come from climate change. More specifically, the very damaging and very costly effects of sea level rise.
According to recent research put out by Climate Central, close to four million Americans now live in coastal communities that could see increased flooding caused by sea-level rise. The kind of flooding that was once considered extremely rare could happen more and more often, with devastating economic consequences.
This week, Need to Know traveled to Norfolk, Va. to report how that city is already dealing with the effects of sea-level rise. The mayor of Norfolk, Paul Fraim, told us that even if the city is able to build large fortifications against the sea, some areas of the city might have to be abandoned in the face of ever rising tides.
Later in that report, we examined how a growing consensus is emerging that some governmental policies – like subsidized Federal flood insurance, and the repeated reconstruction of flood prone infrastructure – may in fact be encouraging people to build in risky places, and that those policies need to be rethought.”
Norfolk, Virginia is a historic city surrounded by three bodies of water, Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, Hampton Roads Bay. It’s in a delta, which means the city is permeated with rivers, marshes, and ponds, nearly all subject to tidal flows. The largest navy base in the world is located here. And thousands of homes are located in flood prone areas.
The city of Norfolk, Va., is getting an early look at what sea-level rise means for a big coastal community. The city is experiencing sea-level rise earlier than most because not only are the seas around the city going up, but much of the land beneath Norfolk is going down. This one-two punch means the city is seeing today the kind of flooding that many cities could experience down the road if the scientific projections of sea-level rise play out. More at PBS
With the seas rising ever more quickly, should tax payers be on the hook to pay for people’s damaged property?
Seas have risen 14” on the shores of Norfolk, Virginia since around 1900. Half of that is from land sinking under the weight of rising water. Norfolk is considered to be ground zero for adapting to climate change, and it’s turning out to be one expensive experiment. PBS has visited Norfolk once before to find out how it will deal with sea level rise and property damage.
The mayor is asked some tough questions, and he provides some truthful, difficult responses. He’s the first mayor, for example, to propose creating a retreat zone, where no one can build or rebuild a home or a business. This would protect land and property from future erosion. PBS also covers FEMA’s troubled National Flood Insurance Program, which I posted about recently. NFIP covers property where private insurance companies won’t - at tax payer expense (in other words, you are subsidizing flood prone homes).
The above video is one of the best mainstream pieces on adaptation I’ve ever seen. It puts sea level rise into context by showing damage to people’s homes, and the difficult choices cities and residents have to make. Highly recommended.