Venice flooding provides glimpse of what’s to come

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.

“The science is beyond dispute… Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response.”

Related posts:

5 Responses to Venice flooding provides glimpse of what’s to come

  1. paulm says:

    …”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.”

    Were in for sea level rise big time what ever we do now (Check with Hansen).

    Venice is toast. They are going to be one of the first big cities to have to retreat and will demonstrate what others have in store in the wake of sea level rise.

  2. Barry says:

    Also, many of the prime estuaries in the world are backed by mega-cities.

    As sea level rises these estuaries can’t retreat inland…so they are shrinking quickly. We are already protecting our cities and houses with riprap, walls and barriers on ever-increasing scale.

    The inter-tidal and shallow water areas of estuaries are the most biologically productive areas on the planet and crucial for many marine species. This shrinking of prime estuary areas is already happening everywhere and well studied, but very poorly covered in media.

    And just imagine an estuary ecosystem trying to occupy the the concrete matrix and toxic brew of a flooded mega-city once it does happen.

    We are definitely heading for a forced “adaptation” to “misery”.

  3. jorleh says:

    Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, is constructing just now flooding barriers. The point is that the ground is elevating 60 cm per century in the aftermath of the last glacial maximum, all the time still. The sea level rising today is much more than 60 cm per century according to this example. And we know, the sea level rising has taken only it´s first step.

  4. Estetik says:

    Finally something positive from the ano maSSistas, thank you ano Franco, I will change the word fighter as soon as I can. Don’t get confuse, it means I fight for democracy in my country, off course you already new this.

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Ice sheets are massive and so take some time to melt.

    But melt they will if it is warm enough.

    It is warm enough in Greenland.

    At least 4 meters sea level rise to come.

    Count on it.