The NYT reports:
One of the highest tides in its history brought Venice to a virtual halt, rekindling a debate over a plan to build moveable flood barriers in an effort to save the lagoon city from high tides.
City officials said the tide peaked at 61 inches (156 centimeters), well past the 40-inch (110-centimeter) flood mark, as strong winds pushed the sea into the city.
Venice has been plagued by flooding for a long time, of course, in part because it has been sinking. But 156 cm flooding just happens to be right in the middle of the most recent scientific estimate for human-caused climate change (see “Stunning new sea level rise research, Part 1: “Most likely” 0.8 to 2.0 meters by 2100“). So Venice give us a glimpse of the whole planet’s future.
And that future is triage – figuring out which coastal cities can be saved in a practical and affordable manner. Venice has pursued the expensive MOSE project (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico or Experimental Electromechanical Module), albeit slowly:
Giancarlo Galan, the conservative governor of the surrounding Veneto region, criticized Venice’s center-left administration for failing to prepare for the flood and for allegedly stonewalling a long-planned system of barriers that would rise from the seabed to ease the effect of high tides.
The $5.5 billion project, called ”Moses” after the Biblical figure who parted the Red Sea, has been under construction for years and is expected to be completed by 2011. The company building the barriers said, had the system been in place, the city would not have been flooded Monday.
Venice Mayor Massimo Cacciari insisted the city’s experts had done a good job and had revised their forecasts well before the water came in. Cacciari, who has criticized the barriers, said the government-backed project would be completed.
Hmm. The NYT might have noted the project’s technical name. But I digress.
MOSE is “an integrated defence system consisting of rows of mobile gates able to isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea when the tide reaches above an established level (110 cm) and up to a maximum of 3 m.”
So Venice is spending $5.5 billion to protect the city from flooding only until sea levels rise another 150 cm or so, which probably takes them to around 2100. At that time the challenge for all coastal cities will be staggering — if we haven’t sharply reversed carbon emissions and avoided 800 to 1000 ppm.
By 2100, we face sea levels rising 6 to 12 inches a decade (or more) for centuries (see “Is 450 ppm politically possible? Part 0: The alternative is humanity’s self-destruction“), which makes a mockery of the term “adaptation.” A much better term is “misery” as John Holdren, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, puts it.