In this article from Quartz (whoever they are), we get a link to a cool interactive map that shows which cities will get flooded if we don’t Do Something(tm) about “pollution” by which they mean atmospheric carbon dioxide.(1) The map is fun – it starts out with Manhattan, and shows what will happen – will, as in stone-cold certain, sun rises in the East level no hedging allowed certain – if somebody – not jet-plane-flying, stuff-shipped-in-from-all-over-the-world-eating-and-wearing, top-of-the-world-living Manhattanites, surely – doesn’t stop polluting, and, more important, make everybody else stop polluting.
You can zoom out and see much of the world. The “Unchecked Pollution” setting yields the most waterlogged results, so of course it’s the default for half the map, compared with the much less soggy but still panic-intending “Extreme Carbon Cuts” on the other side.
The most impressive thing is that Florida is half Gone! A completely plausible 15′ or so rise in sea level, and Miami is just a shallow place in the ocean. Out on the West Coast, the biggest problem by far is the ocean backing up into San Francisco Bay.(2) Sacramento will be a coastal town of sorts. Stockton is spared. My house will be a lot closer to being ocean front property, which might be good for home prices. Then again, adding apocalyptic flooding to death by earthquake as features of the neighborhood might dampen (hah!) home buying enthusiasm…
When will this happen? In the article linked above, in the third paragraph, after the lead pipe cinch certainty has been established, we find out:
The report doesn’t unearth exactly when water will begin flowing into coastal cities, but notes that our current carbon emissions will lock in changes that could start occurring in as early as 2200. (Even if we stopped burning fossil fuels today, carbon pollution already in the atmosphere would be high enough to register an effect for years to come.)
So, we don’t need to rush right out and get some waders, then?
But let’s just look at a couple other maps, get a little perspective:
Here we see a situation where hundreds of coastal cities are destroyed by climate change – in this case, glaciation during an ice age. Kandla would be a hundred miles from the sea! Even worse for Singapore! Of course, over the hundreds of years over which this situation would be likely to develop, canals could be built or cities moved.(3) The big problem might be agricultural displacement, but we really don’t know. We do know that the evidence strongly suggests that CO2 levels have been pretty low during glaciations, and that plants need CO2 to grow – so feeding people could be a problem.
18,000 years a go – a geological blink of the eye – Florida was HUGE! Maybe all those new areas would be good for growing stuff? The climate was much different as well, so hard to tell.
Finally, the one we are supposed to worry about:
Leaving aside if anyone would really miss Florida if it got flooded over the course of a few centuries (and other places inevitably get greened up and more attractive to people fleeing Manhattan, which is, of course, what this is all about), the thing here to notice, the thing studiously avoided, is that, geologically speaking, THIS IS NORMAL. Today, and for the last few thousand years, we’ve been living on a knife-edge, climatologically speaking. Over the last couple billion years, almost certainly over the last couple hundred million, as far as we can tell, the earth more often than not did not have ice caps – the sea level, therefore, was much higher. Only once in great while did glaciation happen, with much lower sea levels – off and on for the last 3 million years, for example.
BUT – the state we’re in now, with comparatively small glaciers confined almost entirely to Greenland and Antarctica? That’s freakishly rare, in the big picture.
Climate change is inevitable. It is over-the-top hubris or religious fanaticism to imagine we can do much of anything about it one way or the other.
How about we focus on keeping the world tidy and setting aside places for critters to live – because we like a tidy planet, and we like our critters?
- Using similar logic, one might assert that the human body is polluted by blood if one gets a transfusion, or the sea is polluted by fish when there’s a plankton bloom.
- Because that’s where I live. See? It’s a simple matter of perspective.
- Happens all the time – Greek cities are often not where they were 2,000 or even 100 years ago. Many large cities are only a few centuries old. Anything that takes more than a lifetime to occur is outside the common notice of human beings.