Bad news on sea levels. Dam
When Al Gore talked about melting ice caps overnight at least he didn’t break out yet more of those risible maps showing what’s going to happen to your neighbourhood once Greenland’s ice melts.
Those animations are like something out of a Jerry Bruckheimer film showing satellite images of icons like London’s Houses of Parliament, lower Manhattan and the Sydney Opera House disappearing slowly under water, as if we’ll all just stand around saying, “I say dear, the harbour is in the front lawn.”
What about dams, sea walls and rock revetments?
I’m no financial advisor but an innovative, hard engineering solution to the apparently looming problem of flooding in built-up coastal areas is probably a good area for some venture capital investment at the moment.
Because the indications are dams – or some similar to them – could soon be in demand around the world.
Some of the most densely populated parts of Australia will be under threat from rising sea levels, but add to that the threat to economic infrastructure assets so critical that it’s unimaginable governments would not consider major engineering projects to protect them.
If you’ve ever flown into Sydney Airport from east over the sea, where the landing gear picks up spray from the water before catching the runway, you can easily picture how a significant sea level rise could start to threaten the airport.
In this CSIRO risk map for Sydney, the vast red blob at the bottom is the nation’s busiest airport. You can see the runways jutting out into the water.
Then there’s the risk to private property. A government report published last month said more than 700,000 properties around the country would be threatened by a sea level rise of 1.1m.
In Byron Bay, NSW, the council has ruled private citizens can’t defend their homes from the crumbling coastline but must submit to a laughable policy of “controlled retreat” – in other words, move their house back or give in to the will of Gaia and watch the living room fall into the sea.
But Byron is the muesli and sandals capital of the southern hemisphere, and the council is run by the Greens. Many locals were outraged at the council’s decision earlier this year and it’s hard to see the more house-proud locals in Sydney’s eastern and southeastern suburbs having a bar of the same policy.
The warning last night from the scientists, flanked by Gore, was that the ice melt in the polar regions was worse than they had previously thought. It’s somewhat unsettling that this has become a familiar refrain from scientists presenting their findings on the latest climate change data.
But possibly good news if you have a good idea for protecting large urban areas of coastline from sea level rise. Because it looks like we may need one.
Dams and sea walls might ruin prized views but if predictions about the impact on coastal zones start to bear out they will be preferable to running for the hills.
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