Great. New York City is preparing for higher waters, having broken ground on a $1.45 billion East Side Coastal Resiliency Project (ESCR). But Manhattan is an island, and this plan only covers the Lower East Side. It won’t do to just save Wall Street without protecting the Upper East Side and all of the West Side. Skyscrapers can’t be put on stilts, so any plan needs to build a wall around the city. How high that wall should be and its total cost depend on projections of how far and how fast sea level will rise, with estimates of how big a contingency safety factor is both needed and affordable. Having been hit by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and with the tsunami that devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011 still fresh in mind, the consensus will be for an ample overbuild.
Even so, adaptation has its limits. Success depends on mitigation not just of NYC’s emissions but the country’s and the world’s. New Yorkers had better pray that Biden’s infrastructure plan passes Congress and that John Kerry, Biden’s appointed international negotiator, can persuade the delegates from all the world’s countries at the UN’s climate summit meeting COP26 in Glasgow this November to ratchet up their Paris commitments to curb climate change.
Even if both happen, resilience and adaptation can only protect New York City for so long. Mankind has emitted so much heat-trapping gas into the atmosphere that even if we were to stop all greenhouse gas emissions today, sea levels would continue to rise. When the West Antarctic “doomsday” ice sheet collapses, the ocean’s rise will be measured not in millimeters but in meters. If we fail to act now, our children alive today will live to see New York City and most other coastal cities worldwide flooded with every full moon or passing storm. Economies will tank, real estate values plummet, millions of fleeing city-dwellers will have to relocate, but where will they go, who will welcome them? They will cause such unrest that some governments will fall. Civilization itself may collapse.
ClimateYou applauds New York mayor Bill de Blasio for his plan to protect Lower Manhattan from the inevitable rising seas. Ambitious as it is, it can only do so much. The plan’s scope needs to be expanded to cover not only the whole of Manhattan but the Outer Boroughs as well — Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. New York is just one city of many at risk in the country and the world. The nation and all foreign ones have to realize the imminent peril we all are in, and act with alacrity to avoid such destabilizing turmoil that mankind’s very survival is threatened.