Rising Seas – How long can we hold back the ocean?

by schmidt on August 10, 2009 · 0 comments

in Water & Water Conservation

As sea levels rise, coastal flooding will increase.  Projections are for a 1.4 meter rise over the next 100 years, and that could be on the low end.  Different local municipalities have proposed different strategies for dealing with this inevitable fact.  In our own backyard rising tides will flood sections of the Sunset, Marina, & Financial districts, much of the Eastern Waterfront, as well as towns and cities throughout the bay area.

The San Francisco Bay Conservation & Development Commission is a state agency tasked with addressing bay infill – I bet you didn’t know that at several points in the last 100 odd years there have been serious discussions about damming part or all of the SF Bay.  The latest manifestation of this is the rising tides foundation recent competition for proposals to protect those areas of the bay most threatened by rising ocean levels due to global warming.

I am grateful for these smart people and the thought they are putting into this problem; but I believe it is all on the wrong track.  Holding back the oceans has been tried, and while it has worked in some cases, as cities like Venice attest to, when it fails, as it did to New Orleans, the devastation can be irreparable.  This is a problem that has to be addressed before it occurs; anything after the fact is like giving a condemned prisoner a last meal.  The Raydike system is particularly interesting, as it proposes a system of light beams installed right away around the bay to show people where damns and other structures would need to be built to keep the waters out.  The idea of rising seas is a total bore for most folks, a 1.4 meter rise in the bay just does not seem to be a big deal, even though it is in fact a cataclysmic proposition.  Raydike could help inspire people to do something about the problem now, instead of dumping it on our children.

If we do not address our contributions to global warming now, we will eventually need something like the BayArc Tidal Barrier or the Folding Water levee system.  I acknowledge the engineering thinking behind these systems, but if we get to the point where these must be built, we are really fucked.  Action has to be taken immediately, in every household, to reduce energy consumption, reduce emissions, and live sustainably, or our future will be giant barriers spread out across the bay.  Is that what you want?

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