Can We Save Our Cities From Drowning?


The antarctic ice sheet is DEFINITELY MELTING! Here's a crazy idea: let's NOT wait until millions of people are homeless before we do something about it. Eh? Eh? Hello folks, Laci Green here for DNews. When it comes to the rising sea level, one of the key players is our Southern buddy Antarctica. Antarctica is a something of a neglected continent because basically nobody lives there– but it is about twice the size of Australia and contains 90% of the earth's ice. The entire continent is basically a 1 mile thick slab of ice. If the whole thing were to melt, the sea level across the planet would rise 200 feet. And humanity would be TOTALLY screwed. Fortunately, we're only SLIGHTLY screwed. Multiple studies published in the journal Science predict that we're looking at closer to a TEN foot increase in sea level across the planet by the year 2200. So hey! It's not 200 hundred feet…but 10 is still a lot, even across the projected 200 year period.

By the time your great-great-grandbabies are walking the earth, around 29,000 square miles of US land will be under water — land that is currently inhabited by over 12 million people. Researchers at Climate Central say that New York City, New Orleans, Miami and DC will be the areas that are most heavily flooded. Various coastal cities in Texas, New Jersey, New England, Virginia, California will also be severely affected. In Florida, the highest risk area, ⅓ of all its housing will go under, and because of what are essentially holes in Florida's bedrock, levees and seawalls will be useless. On a global scale, thirteen of the world's largest cities and about 25% of humanity rests in coastal areas that will be affected. Some inhabited islands, like the Maldives, are projected to go underwater completely. Of course, this kind of rise also poses a great threat for severe flooding during storms like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy.

Plus tsunami zones from earthquakes will extend much further back into the land. BUT! Before you freak, keep in mind that this is something that will happen SLOWLY, over time. It's not an overnight thing. The melt predicted is also not reversible, it's gonna happen, so cities will need to figure out how they will handle the physical and economic impacts — a process that begins by scientists and policymakers working together and asking the right questions to get started. The American Geophysical Union is already asking: alright guys, what's our approach here? Should we build up our seawalls? Should we start to zone future buildings and real estate further up on the land? How will this affect our economy? To prevent even more sea level rising, we should also be seriously thinking about what role humans play in preventing more ice melting. The common response to this kind of news is usually fear (OH MY GOD!) followed by apathy (I DON'T CARE!).

I'd argue that the proper response isn't fear or apathy at all — it's action. Action in the form of prevention and adaptation. Time to roll up those sleeves and get to work. What do you think? Tell me about it down below and I'll see you next time with more science updates..