Manual Urban Meltdown: Cities, Climate Change and Politics-as-Usual

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The datasets are also available as weekly exports. NL EN. More from Clive Doucet. More about City planning Environmental aspects Climatic changes Environmental degradation Global warming Political aspects Municipal government Urban ecology Sociology Urbanization Environmental aspects.

This is New York in the not-so-distant future

Faculty library sciences Open print view. Mon 23 Sep Study Resto S5 : u. Tue 24 Sep Study Resto S5 : u. Like a stumbling boxer, the city will try to keep its guard up, but the sea will only gain strength. But Jacob began trying to sound the alarm about the risk more than a decade ago. In , while working on a government panel, Jacob produced a study that mapped how subway tunnels would be inundated in the event of a hurricane. The next year, he was proved right. After Sandy, Jacob was hailed as a prophet. The ground floor of his quaint clapboard house was a jumble of furniture, and he pointed to a pen mark two feet up the wall — the height the water had reached.

Many of those who lived around him fared worse; there were huge piles of debris up and down his street. Outside, Jacob noticed a neighbor hanging up some early holiday decorations. Despite his acute awareness of risk, he had chosen to make his home on a lane that bordered a grassy marsh.


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Sitting in his third-floor office, with classical music playing softly in the background, Jacob recounted how he had purchased the house after his wife, an artist, fell in love with it. Every year, summer through fall, Jacob would closely monitor reports from the National Hurricane Center, and he followed Sandy online as it blew in from the Caribbean.

Jacob took a look at the readings from Battery Park, showing an unprecedented foot storm surge, and resigned himself to the inevitable. An hour later, the surge reached his house. No one is very good at acting on the unthinkable. We now know, without scientific question, that the Earth is warming fast, that is on pace to be the hottest year in the books, setting a record for the third year in a row.

We know that glaciers are melting. We know the water is coming.

No serious thinker doubts this man-made reality any longer. Yet climate-change denial comes in subtler forms. Try as we might to contemplate how New York City might go under, our imagination fails us. Climate scientist Ben Strauss set me up on the most advanced version, which uses 3-D Google Earth imagery, and apprised me of the latest gloomy research.

Policymakers may trumpet the Paris Agreement, signed this year, which aims to cut carbon emissions enough to hold global warming to a target of 1. Strauss added that in Antarctica, enormous glaciers appear to be melting faster than previously estimated, making the current worst-case projections look more and more like probabilities. With his program, though, I could visualize it. Four feet, five feet: The blue crept east along Canal, toward the entrance to the Holland Tunnel.

At six feet, my office building was almost an island.

Urban Meltdown_cities,Climate Change and Politics as Usual

It has been standing for 86 years; six feet of sea-level rise could quite possibly occur before another 86 years pass. Strauss told me that even the supposedly manageable increase of 1. The Dumbo carousel stood solitary in the East River, and the barrier spits of the Rockaways and Coney Island mostly vanished.

The program also has a function that allows you to see the outcomes of greater increases in temperature.


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At 3 degrees — 20 feet — the water overwhelmed them. I clicked up to the maximum setting of 4 degrees — 30 feet — and maneuvered upward to take in the view from the top of the spire of One World Trade Center. Lower Manhattan had become an archipelago, and the rooftops of southern Brooklyn resembled boats bobbing in a marina. How likely are these outcomes? The latest scientific data suggests that we are already nearing the 1. Few places on Earth are as vulnerable to sea-level rise. Among other reasons, this is because the northeastern coast of the United States is simultaneously sinking, owing to the natural process of subsidence.

At the Battery, tidal readings are rising at twice the global rate. Klaus Jacob works with the panel, too. When I visited him at his office earlier this year, Solecki had been preparing to speak at a conference in the Netherlands on the subject of climate adaptation, alongside presenters from London, Lagos, and Kolkata. Coastal cities around the world have just begun to awake to the possibility that sea-level rise could force fundamental changes.

How will this pressure be expressed? Among those who spend their days considering the implications of global warming, Solecki counts as an optimist. That is already a daunting problem, so long-term adaptation gets less attention. In part, that is because it is hard to address it without sending the public a conflicting — and quite dampening — message: that ultimately, mitigation is futile.

On one page there was a map of New York, largely reduced to a rump portion of Midtown and Upper Manhattan and a central-highland swathe of Brooklyn and Queens. Oreskes says she looked at the science and tried to extrapolate the absolute worst that could happen, just as a thought experiment. Sea levels were some 30 meters — or nearly feet — higher. He thinks that the government should instead rework its policies to relocate assets away from the water.

Our ingenuity, and our real-estate speculation, have made the city a continually expanding entity. We are not used to contemplating contraction. Beneath this defiant civic agenda is an old, blithe assumption that New York is too rich, too important, too tough, to ever give up an inch of real estate. If sea-level rise reaches 2. The climate-change panel predicts that could happen by , which still leaves some time for long-range planning. At present, however, the city appears to be unable to accept the fact that it faces an inevitable reckoning.

The human tide is moving in the wrong direction, still marching toward the waterline. Seedy warehouse districts have been redeveloped as luxury housing. Seller Inventory Xn. Clive Doucet. Publisher: New Society Publishers , This specific ISBN edition is currently not available. View all copies of this ISBN edition:.

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