Mitigation and Adaptation
We can respond to climate change by mitigating it - reducing its effects - such as by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and adapting to it, by changing our ways of life to cope with hotter (and sometimes colder) temperatures, extremes of rainfall and drought, storms, rising sea levels, changes in agriculture etc.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group III brings together experts to assess the scientific evidence and make recommendations on mitigation and adaptation. The group's remit, like that of the Panel generally, is diplomatically sensitive, given the differing political agendas of the Panel's member countries and possibly even the group's own members (for example nuclear power is generally opposed in Germany and Austria and it is possible that national scientific institutions reflect national biases), and the Working Group's recommendations are intended to be "policy relevant but not policy prescriptive".
Whilst there are predictably claims from AGW denialist that the assessments of Working Groups I and II are "alarmist", there are also criticisms that WG III's mitigation assessments are unduly optimistic and are tailored not to unduly alarm politicians.
- 1 IPCC WG III assessments
- 2 Mitigation
- 2.1 Economic action
- 2.2 Legal action
- 2.3 Political action
- 3 Adaptation
IPCC WG III assessments
Adaptation and Mitigation IPCC synthesis report: Topic 4
- Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. Effective implementation depends on policies and cooperation at all scales and can be enhanced through integrated responses that link mitigation and adaptation with other societal objectives.
IPCC: rapid carbon emission cuts vital to stop severe impact of climate change Damian Carrington; The Guardian; 2 Nov 2014
- Most important assessment of global warming yet warns carbon emissions must be cut sharply and soon, but UN’s IPCC says solutions are available and affordable
- The report, released in Copenhagen on Sunday by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is the work of thousands of scientists and was agreed after negotiations by the world’s governments. It is the first IPCC report since 2007 to bring together all aspects of tackling climate change and for the first time states: that it is economically affordable; that carbon emissions will ultimately have to fall to zero; and that global poverty can only be reduced by halting global warming. The report also makes clear that carbon emissions, mainly from burning coal, oil and gas, are currently rising to record levels, not falling.
- The report calculates that to prevent dangerous climate change, investment in low-carbon electricity and energy efficiency will have to rise by several hundred billion dollars a year before 2030. But it also found that delaying significant emission cuts to 2030 puts up the cost of reducing carbon dioxide by almost 50%, partly because dirty power stations would have to be closed early.
- Tackling climate change need only trim economic growth rates by a tiny fraction, the IPCC states, and may actually improve growth by providing other benefits, such as cutting health-damaging air pollution.
- Carbon capture and storage (CCS) – the nascent technology which aims to bury CO2 underground – is deemed extremely important by the IPPC. It estimates that the cost of the big emissions cuts required would more than double without CCS.
- Linking CCS to the burning of wood and other plant fuels would reduce atmospheric CO2 levels because the carbon they contain is sucked from the air as they grow. But van Ypersele said the IPCC report also states “very honestly and fairly” that there are risks to this approach, such as conflicts with food security.
- In contrast to the importance the IPCC gives to CCS, abandoning nuclear power or deploying only limited wind or solar power increases the cost of emission cuts by just 6-7%. The report also states that behavioural changes, such as dietary changes that could involve eating less meat, can have a role in cutting emissions.
- As part of setting out how the world’s nations can cut emissions effectively, the IPCC report gives prominence to ethical considerations. “[Carbon emission cuts] and adaptation raise issues of equity, justice, and fairness,” says the report. “The evidence suggests that outcomes seen as equitable can lead to more effective [international] cooperation.”
- These issues are central to the global climate change negotiations and their inclusion in the report was welcomed by campaigners, as was the statement that adapting countries and coastlines to cope with global warming cannot by itself avert serious impacts.
Leading insurers tell G20 to stop funding fossil fuels by 2020 Karl Mathiesen; The Guardian; 30 Aug 2016
- Three of the world’s biggest insurers have called on G20 leaders to implement a timeframe for ending fossil fuel subsidies when they meet in China this week.
- G20 members contribute $160-$200bn each year to the production of coal, oil and gas, according to the OECD.
- Website reporting legal actions on Climate Change
Netherlands loses landmark global warming case, ordered to cut emissions Sebastian Anthony; ars technica; 24 Jun 2015
- In a landmark case that may set a very important precedent for other countries around the world, especially within Europe, the Dutch government has been ordered by the courts to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent.
World's largest carbon producers face landmark human rights case John Vidal; Guardian; 27 Jul 2016
- The world’s largest oil, coal, cement and mining companies have been given 45 days to respond to a complaint that their greenhouse gas emissions have violated the human rights of millions of people living in the Phillippines. In a potential landmark legal case, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR), a constitutional body with the power to investigate human rights violations, has sent 47 “carbon majors” including Shell, BP, Chevron, BHP Billiton and Anglo American, a 60-page document accusing them of breaching people’s fundamental rights to “life, food, water, sanitation, adequate housing, and to self determination”.
Peru v. Germany
Peruvian farmer squares up to German power giant in climate lawsuit Sophie Hares; Reuters; 10 Nov 2017
- TEPIC, Mexico (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In Peru’s snow-capped Cordillera Blanca mountains, fast-melting glaciers are pushing the cobalt waters of Lake Palcacocha dangerously high, raising fears it could overflow and send a huge wave of water and mud crashing to the town of Huaraz below.
- Huaraz farmer and mountain guide Saúl Luciano Lliuya, who blames the world’s biggest emitters for the warmer temperatures shrinking the glaciers, will appeal his civil case on Monday against German utility RWE, which he thinks should contribute to reinforcing the lake – even though it has no operations in Peru.
New York v fossil fuel companies
New York City sues ‘polluting’ Shell, BP and others Jonny Bairstow; Energy Live News; 11 Jan 2018
- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city’s pension funds will withdraw around $5 billion (£3.7bn) of investments from fossil fuel companies.
- It has also launched a lawsuit against the businesses it says have contributed most to the climate crisis – ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Shell and ConocoPhillips.
- The city seeks damages for the impacts of climate change on the city. It says this has already amounted to billions of dollars, with billions more needed to prepare for rising sea levels, more powerful storms and hotter temperatures.
New York and Massachusetts
U.S. judge dismisses Exxon lawsuit to stop climate change probes Reuters; 29 Mar 2018
- A federal judge on Thursday dismissed Exxon Mobil Corp’s lawsuit seeking to stop New York and Massachusetts from probing whether the company misled investors and the public about climate change and the potential effects on its business.
A California Court Might Have Just Opened The Floodgates For Climate Litigation Brian H. Potts; Forbes; 1 Mar 2018
- On Tuesday, a federal district court in California issued a decision that could open the floodgates for climate-change litigation in federal courts around the country.
- The United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a procedural decision in California v. BP, LLC, a lawsuit brought by Oakland, San Francisco and various others against BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Royal Dutch Shell for selling fossil-fuel products that they allege cause global warming. The plaintiffs’ complaint asserts nuisance claims against the defendants under common law, seeking an abatement fund to help pay for sea walls and other climate-related defense infrastructure.
- Back in 2011, however, the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark American Electric Power v. Connecticut decision rejected similar nuisance claims brought against companies for burning fossil fuels. The high court found that these lawsuits based on federal common law were improperly in federal court because greenhouse gas emissions were already regulated by an existing federal law: the Clean Air Act.
- But now, the California federal district court has said that the Supreme Court’s decision may not apply to all federal climate nuisance cases, and that some of them are still properly in federal court. In an about-face, the California court’s decision on Tuesday argues that the U.S. Supreme Court’s AEP ruling does not apply to all federal climate-change nuisance cases. The pending cases against these oil companies are still properly in federal court, according to U.S. District Judge William Alsup, because the Clean Air Act only regulates the companies that burn fossil-fuels, not the companies that sell them (like the defendants).
- U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the Federal District Court in Eugene, Oregon, decided in favor of 21 young plaintiffs in their landmark constitutional climate change case against the federal government. Judge Coffin ruled Friday against the motion to dismiss brought by the fossil fuel industry and federal government.
Climate Change Litigation - The Children Win In Court James Conca; Forbes; 1 Mar 2016
- Against all odds, the 21 children, ages 8 to 19, who are suing the government to protect the environment against the harm of global warming in their future, have won in court. Again. In a surprise ruling on Friday from the bench in the ongoing climate case brought by these youths against the State of Washington’s Department of Ecology, King County Superior Court Judge Hollis Hill ordered the Department of Ecology to promulgate a carbon emissions reduction rule by the end of 2016 and make recommendations to the state legislature on science-based greenhouse gas reductions in the 2017 legislative session. Judge Hill also ordered the Department of Ecology to consult with the young plaintiffs in advance of that recommendation.
Children Win Another Climate Change Legal Case In Mass Supreme Court James Conca; Forbes; 19 May 2016
- In another surprising victory for children suing the government over climate change, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court last Friday found in favor of four youth plaintiffs against the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. The Court found that the DEP was not complying with its legal obligation to reduce the State’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ordered the agency to “promulgate regulations that address…greenhouse gas emissions, impose a limit on emissions that may be released…and set limits that decline on an annual basis.” This case is one of several similar cases in federal district courts in Oregon and Washington, and in the state courts of North Carolina, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Colorado. All of these legal cases are supported by Our Children’s Trust, that seeks the legal right of our youth to a healthy atmosphere and stable climate in the future.
Trump could face the ‘biggest trial of the century’ — over climate change Chelsea Harvey; Washington Post; 1 Dec 2016
- A few weeks ago, a federal judge in Oregon made headlines when she ruled that a groundbreaking climate lawsuit will proceed to trial. And some experts say its outcome could rewrite the future of climate policy in the United States.
- The case, brought by 21 youths aged 9 to 20, claims that the federal government isn’t doing enough to address the problem of climate change to protect their planet’s future — and that, they charge, is a violation of their constitutional rights on the most basic level. The case has already received widespread attention, even garnering the support of well-known climate scientist James Hansen, who has also joined as a plaintiff on behalf of his granddaughter and as a guardian for “future generations.”
- The U.S. government under President Obama, along with several others representing members of the fossil fuel industry, filed to have the lawsuit dismissed. But on Nov. 10, federal judge Ann Aiken denied the motion, clearing the case to proceed to trial. According to Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit representing the youth plaintiffs, a recent case management conference indicated that the case would likely go to trial by summer or early fall of 2017.
New Canadian Bill Would Help Cities Sue Oil Industry for Climate Damages Karen Savage; Climate Liability News; 26 Mar 2018
- A Canadian legislator introduced a bill on Monday to protect Ontario residents from the costs of climate change-related damages and to make it easier to force fossil fuel companies to pay for infrastructure improvements needed to protect communities from climate impacts.
- “This act will give Ontarians the legal means to seek compensation from the world’s major polluters for their fair share of those costs,” said Peter Tabuns, a Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) representing Toronto-Danforth, who introduced the bill.
- Known as the Liability for Climate-Related Harms Act of 2018, Tabuns said the bill is similar to tobacco liability legislation used to hold tobacco companies liable for the health costs of tobacco use.
- “This bill defines the nature of evidence to be produced and it simplifies this whole action,” said Tabuns, who said the bill is structured to assume strict liability on the part of producers.
- “There is an assumption in this bill that climate change is caused by man-made action—the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere—and it sets a threshold for determining whether a particular event has caused damage,” said Tabuns, adding that the threshold would be consistent with the one established internationally.
- “This Bill appears to be the first in the world to directly impose strict liability—liability without proof of fault—on fossil fuel companies for climate impacts,” said Andrew Gage, staff lawyer for the West Coast Environmental Law Association (WCEL), which endorsed the bill.
China’s climate actions turn the tables on American deniers Reuters; 26 Sep 2015
How a selfish world can still avoid catastrophic climate change New Scientist; 26 Oct 2015
- Each country generally defines “fair” according to what will mean the least effort for them, says Malte Meinshausen at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany. Getting them all to agree on that point seems utopian, he says. “Every country agreed to a 2°C or lower climate target, and they all make up their own story about why their own target is fair,” says Meinshausen. But the voluntary pledges to cut national greenhouse gas emissions made ahead of December’s climate summit in Paris aren’t enough to keep warming below 2°C. So Meinshausen and colleagues looked at what is needed to reach the target and how to get nations to agree to them, allowing for every country to define “fair” the way that burdens them the least. The team’s imagined scenario involves one country or group of countries leading with ambitious emissions cuts, and every other country following. But each follower country interprets its fair contribution according to what costs it the least. “If any country wants to claim to be a leader – and they all say that they’re a leader – this is now the first litmus test,” says Meinshausen.
National post-2020 greenhouse gas targets and diversity-aware leadership Malte Meinshausen, Louise Jeffery, Johannes Guetschow, Yann Robiou du Pont, Joeri Rogelj, Michiel Schaeffer, Niklas Höhne, Michel den Elzen, Sebastian Oberthür & Nicolai Meinshausen; Nature Climate Change; 26 Oct 2015
Earth Hour: Turning out the lights plays into the hands of our critics George Marshall; The Guardian; 27 Mar 2009
- In my 25 years of environmental campaigning I have seen lots of inspired protests and lots of daft or pointless ones. But the WWF Earth Hour campaign has to be one of the most misguided and counterproductive actions I have ever seen.
What Do the Presidential Candidates Know about Science? Christine Gorman; Scientific American; 13 Sep 2016
- Clinton, Trump and Stein answer 20 top questions about science, engineering, technology, health and environmental issues
Military Leaders Urge Trump to See Climate as a Security Threat Erika Bolstad, Climate Wire; Scientific American; 15 Nov 2016
- a bipartisan group of defense experts and former military leaders sent Donald Trump’s transition team a briefing book urging the president-elect to consider climate change as a grave threat to national security.
- The Center for Climate & Security in its briefing book argues that climate change presents a risk to U.S. national security and international security, and that the United States should advance a comprehensive policy for addressing the risk. The recommendations, released earlier this year, were developed by the Climate and Security Advisory Group, a voluntary, nonpartisan group of 43 U.S.-based senior military, national security, homeland security and intelligence experts, including the former commanders of the U.S. Pacific and Central commands.
- The briefing book argues that climate change presents a significant and direct risk to U.S. military readiness, operations and strategy, and military leaders say it should transcend politics. It goes beyond protecting military bases from sea-level rise, the military advisers say. They urge Trump to order the Pentagon to game out catastrophic climate scenarios, track trends in climate impacts and collaborate with civilian communities. Stresses from climate change can increase the likelihood of international or civil conflict, state failure, mass migration and instability in strategically significant areas around the world, the defense experts argue.
Rex Tillerson Suggests The U.S. Should Stay In Paris Climate Agreement Alexander C. Kaufman; Huffinton Post; 11 Jan 2017
- Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, hinted on Wednesday that he would support keeping the United States in the historic Paris climate agreement. Asked during his Senate confirmation hearing whether the U.S. should maintain its commitments in the accord, the former Exxon Mobil Corp. chief executive said the 180-country deal allows the country to influence the necessary “global response” to climate change. “It’s important that the United States maintain its seat at the table with the conversations around how to deal with the threats of climate change,” he said.
How to Resist an Unjust Regime Nonviolently John Horgan; Scientific American blogs; 18 Nov 2016
- Gene Sharp advocates nonviolent activism for practical rather than moral or spiritual reasons. He rejects religious exhortations that we should turn the other cheek and love our enemies. People in power often deserve to be despised and fought, he contends, but violence, even in the service of a just cause, often causes more problems than it solves, leading to greater injustice and suffering. Hence the best way to oppose an unjust regime is through nonviolent action.
What does climate change look like through the eyes of a politician? Rebecca Willis; Inside Track - Green Alliance blog; 18 Sep 2017
- I’m in a café in the House of Commons, talking to a newly-elected MP about climate change. He’s under no illusions about likely impacts. He points out that where we’re sitting, beside the River Thames, could be under water in decades to come. He calls climate change ‘catastrophic’, and looks for every opportunity he can to raise the issue. But his commitment has come at a price: speaking out on climate is, he tells me, a ‘career-limiting move’.
Major coal company committed to climate change breaks ties with industry groups Climate Action; 21 Dec 2017
- BHP Billiton, a British-Australian mining company has announced it will withdraw its membership from energy associations which don’t hold an active position on climate and energy policy, emphasising its commitment to take responsible action against global warming.
- The mining company released a report where it reviewed the stance of all the industry associations where it currently is a member of, to check if the company’s values on the fight against climate change are reflected on the associations’ core strategy.
- “As a major producer and consumer of fossil fuels, we recognise our responsibility to take action by focusing on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions; adapting to the physical impacts of climate change; accelerating the development and deployment of low emissions technology; testing and building the resilience of our portfolio; and working with others, including academia, industry and governments, to enhance the global response to climate change”, reads the report.
- It revealed that 21 of them hold an active position in the issue, but it raised concerns over three associations: the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA), the US Chamber of Commerce and the World Coal Association.
- Therefore, BHP Billiton announced its plans to exit the World Coal Association over the next year and warned the other two.
Time for Conservatives to Break the Anti-Environmentalist Mold HENRY CHAPPELL; The American Conservative; 18 Jan 2018
- Do conservatives have a predisposed hostility towards environmental concerns?
- With their preference for order, regard for their ancestors’ accomplishments, and instinctive revulsion towards Rousseauian notions of natural perfection, traditionalists recoil against what Pascal Bruckner called the environmentalist left’s “numberless Cassandras…[who] do not intend to warn so much as to condemn us,” while anointing the planet as the “new proletariat” that must be saved.
- Yet when considered rationally, environmental issues actually call upon core conservative principles.
- In How to Think Seriously About the Planet, philosopher Roger Scruton asserts that pollution and habitat destruction engage “a fundamental moral idea to which conservatives attach great importance: the idea that those responsible for damage should also repair it.” Conservatives oppose externalization of the costs of poor sexual and financial decisions, and likewise should resent their descendants being burdened with someone else’s environmental mess.
- Nevertheless there has been a great effort to politicize the environmental issue and convince conservatives there is no real “mess” in the first place. Potential environmental problems raised by scientists are nearly always presented to the public by environmentalist organizations. The right, led by business interests, reacts. Industry-funded experts focus on refuting or blunting the environmentalist message. The same commentators who accuse scientists of exaggerating the dangers of climate change in order to keep research money flowing ostensibly place more confidence in the positions of industry-backed messengers who make arguments that keep their own own money flowing. Whether the accusation of exaggeration reflects partisanship, cynicism, or projection, it’s been very effective at thwarting responsible debate on the right and hardening the liberal conviction that conservatives are anti-science philistines.
- This hasn’t always been the case. As historian Patrick Allitt points out in A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism, Republicans and Democrats worked together in the 1960s and 1970s to pass sweeping environmental legislation. Allitt writes: “Between 1969 and 1973, in a sustained burst of bipartisan cooperation, they transformed the politics of the environment more drastically than at any time before or since.”
- Although President Richard Nixon had shown no interest in environmental issues prior to taking office, political realities forced him to support the National Environmental Policy Act and create a presidential Council on Environmental Quality. Voters needed no scientific explanation of what they’d seen and smelled for decades. Smog killed some 300 people in New York City in 1963. Angelenos lost their beloved mountain views to sickening yellow clouds, while the U.S. Public Health Service classified the hundred-mile stretch of the Trinity River below Dallas as “septic.” Lake Erie, long defiled by raw sewage and agricultural runoff, suffered huge fish kills. In 1969, the Cuyahoga River became an apocalyptic symbol of the times when it caught fire for the ninth time in recent decades.
The Daily 202: How a conservative think tank is trying to tackle climate change James Hohmann; Power Post; 27 Mar 2018
- While President Trump is systematically rolling back his predecessor’s efforts to combat climate change, the conservative Hoover Institution is trying to address the reality of rising temperatures, higher sea levels and more extreme weather.
- The center-right think tank, which is affiliated with Stanford University and home to GOP grandees like Condoleezza Rice, is pursuing a host of initiatives that treat climate change as a pressing national security challenge and a market failure that requires government intervention.
- It’s a striking contrast to Washington, where the Paris accord has been abandoned, skeptics of established science hold some of the most important jobs in government and congressional Republicans long ago eschewed promises to seriously confront environmental disruption.
- But here, the spirit of innovation that defines Silicon Valley trumps the ideological rigidity that reigns in the capital.
- George Shultz, who served as Ronald Reagan’s secretary of state, embraces the idea of a carbon tax. He says this would free up private firms to find the most efficient ways to cut emissions. The 97-year-old chairs an energy policy task force at Hoover that, among other solutions, advocates for expanding nuclear power. “Let’s take out an insurance policy to protect against the risk of climate change,” Shultz said.
- Gary Roughead, the former chief of naval operations, studies the consequences of global warming in the Arctic. This is causing polar ice caps to melt and, for all intents and purposes, opening a new ocean. That means trade routes will soon exist that are now blocked by ice. The retired admiral, one of only two people to ever command both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, believes the U.S. must prepare for and capitalize on this. That will require checking Russia’s expansionary push in the northern sea lanes.
- James Mattis, who spent almost four years at Hoover between retiring from the Marines and leaving to becoming secretary of defense, has also described climate change as a national security threat, citing the rising sea levels and desertification. Lake Chad, for example, has shrunk by about 90 percent since 1990, causing the instability that fueled the rise of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
- Hoover has even hired an alumna of Barack Obama’s White House to focus on climate change. Alice Hill was a special assistant to the president and the senior director for resilience policy on the National Security Council. Before that, she served as a judge and led a climate change task force at the Department of Homeland Security.
- “This is a global problem, and it’s really a problem that needs attention from the highest levels of government,” Hill said during a day-long Hoover media roundtable on Monday. “It’s difficult to solve it with 50 states and all the municipalities trying to pull and row in one direction without somebody as a captain of the ship. … It’s here, and we need to address it.”
Rising sea levels
This Entire Island May Have to Be Raised Up to Counter Rising Sea Anne C. Mulkern; Scientific American / E&E News; 29 Mar 2018
- An aqua-blue bay filled with white boats surrounds Balboa Island, an exclusive enclave with water views from multimillion-dollar homes.
- The bay is a major reason that 3,300 people live on the island. It’s also increasingly treacherous. In recent years, the bay has gushed over an aging sea wall when major storms strike at high tide.
- The island, built on dredged sand and silt, sits below high tide. Projections for sea-level rise estimate the water here will climb 6 inches by 2035 and 1.4 feet by 2050, according to researchers at the University of California, Irvine.
- “They’re facing the possibility of chronically flooded streets within the decade,” said Brett Sanders, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Irvine. “Without actions, you’re going to have chronically flooded streets and neighborhoods that are unlivable unless steps are taken.”
- By 2050, floodwater could rise above residents’ ankles, or even their knees, on a regular basis, he said.
- The city, located about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, closes floodgates on the island before high tide to keep bay water from backing up through storm drains and inundating the streets.
- That has consequences. When it rains, “water has nowhere to go, and it stays in the street,” said Newport Beach Assistant City Engineer Bob Stein. The city can’t reopen the valves until water levels fall.
- In the future, when storms hit at maximum tide, “Balboa Island will probably be one of the most impacted on the West Coast,” he said.
- To alleviate those impacts, the city plans to spend $2 million in the short term, and potentially much more in coming years, to protect the island and other parts of Newport Beach. Workers have started adding a 9-inch topper on the sea wall that buffers island homes from rising seas. Planners had wanted an 18-inch supplement, but residents argued that much would ruin waterfront views.
- The 9-inch addition—a compromise—will only work as a short-term barricade. It might resist the waves for 10 to 15 years, given projections about sea-level rise, Stein said.
- There’s a bigger plan afoot. That one, currently under development, is to lift the island. Homes, streets and sea walls would be raised.
- Changes are already underway. When residents redevelop using revised codes, they must put the first floor of the residence roughly 9.2 feet or more above mean sea level. That is about 3 to 3 ½ feet above the current street level.
- The city plans to install a tide gauge in the bay to track how quickly waters rise, and adjust plans as needed. For now, Stein anticipates Balboa Island streets would be raised within 30 to 40 years. The drainage system that runs under the streets must be refurbished at the same time.
- “The whole island is going to jack up by 2050,” Stein said. “I expect the roadways will be 2 feet higher. Then depending on sea-level rise, by 2100 they will be another 2 feet higher or more.”
A Floating House to Resist the Floods of Climate Change Emily Anthes; New Yorker; 3 Jan 2018
- Last June, not long after a catastrophic thunderstorm swept through southern Ontario, bringing a month’s worth of rain in just a few hours, a group of seventy-five architects, engineers, and policymakers from sixteen countries gathered in the city of Waterloo to discuss how humanity will cope with its waterlogged future. The timing of the conference was a fitting meteorological coincidence; in a world increasingly transformed by climate change, heavy rains and major floods are becoming more common, at least in some areas. In the summer of 2017 alone, Hurricane Harvey dumped more than fifty inches of rain over Texas, a monster monsoon season damaged more than eight hundred thousand homes in India, and flash floods and mudslides claimed at least five hundred lives in Sierra Leone. In the past two decades, the world’s ten worst floods have done more than a hundred and sixty-five billion dollars’ worth of damage and driven more than a billion people from their homes.
- It was statistics like these that animated the experts who had assembled in Ontario for the International Conference on Amphibious Architecture, Design and Engineering, a three-day event organized by Elizabeth English, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo. Unlike traditional buildings, amphibious structures are not static; they respond to floods like ships to a rising tide, floating on the water’s surface. As one of English’s colleagues put it, “You can think of these buildings as little animals that have their feet wet and can then lift themselves up as needed.” Amphibiation may be an unconventional strategy, but it reflects a growing consensus that, at a time of climatic volatility, people can’t simply fight against water; they have to learn to live with it. “With amphibious construction, water becomes your friend,” English told me. “The water gets to do what the water wants to do. It’s not a confrontation with Mother Nature—it’s an acceptance of Mother Nature.”