From Bangkok to Miami, cities and coastal areas across the globe are already building or planning defenses to protect millions of people and key infrastructure from more powerful storm surges and other effects of global warming. • Some are planning cities that will simply adapt to more water. • But climate-proofing a city or coastline is expensive, as shown by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s $20 billion plan to build floodwalls, levees and other defenses against rising seas. • The most vulnerable places are those with the fewest resources to build such defenses, secure their water supplies or move people to higher ground. How to pay for such measures is a burning issue in U.N. climate talks, which just wrapped up a
session in the German city of Bonn. • A sampling of cities around the world and what they are doing to prepare for the climatic forces that scientists say are being unleashed by global warming:ROTTERDAM, Netherlands
In a country where two-thirds of the population lives below sea level, the battle against the sea has been a matter of life and death for centuries.
The focus in the 20th century was on a spectacular series of sea defenses, including massive steel and concrete barriers that can be quickly moved to protect against storm surges. But current techniques embrace a philosophy of “living with water.”
Thousands of waterways are being connected so the country can act as a sponge and absorb influxes of water. Some areas have been designated as flood zones. Houses that can float have been a building sensation.
Sea-level rise is a concern for this flood-prone city. It’s in the process of realizing an expensive and oft-delayed system of underwater barriers that would be raised in the event of flooding over 43 inches.
Venice, a system of islands built into a shallow lagoon, is extremely vulnerable to rising seas because the sea floor is also sinking. Plans for the new
so-called Moses barriers will cost more than 4 billion euro. The first of these have been moved into place in recent days. Many Venetians remain skeptical of the project due to the high costs and concerns over environmental risks.MIAMI
Southern Florida is one of those places that show up as partially under water in many sea-level projections for this century. So it’s no surprise local leaders are seeking ways to adapt. Four counties of South Florida, including Miami-Dade, have collaborated on a plan to respond to climate change. Their overarching goal: keeping fresh water inland and saltwater away.
Before writing the plan, the counties reviewed regional sea-level data and projected a rise of 9 to 24 inches in the next 50
years along a coastline that already has documented a rise of 9 inches over the past 100 years.BANGLADESH
Bangladesh is one of Asia’s poorest countries and one that faces extreme risks from rising sea levels. Its capital, Dhaka, is at the top of a list of world cities deemed most vulnerable to climate change, according to risk analysis company Maplecroft.
The World Bank says a sea-level rise of 5 inches would affect 20 million people along the 440-mile coast. Many of these people would be homeless.
Bangladesh is implementing two major projects worth $470 million that involve growing forests on the coastal belt and building more multistory shelters to house people after cyclones and tidal surges.
ThailandSea-level rise projections show Bangkok could be at risk of inundation in 100 years unless preventive measures are taken. But when the capital and its outskirts were affected in 2011 by the worst flooding in half a century, the immediate trigger was water runoff from the north, where dams failed to hold very heavy rains.
The government recently announced winning bids totaling $9.38 million by Chinese, South Korean and Thai firms to run the flood and water management schemes, including the construction of reservoirs, floodways and barriers.
Solutions to the problem of rising seas are still being studied.
“Construction alone is not sustainable,” said Seree Supratid, director of a climate and disaster center at Rangsit University. “People have to adapt to nature.”