More musings on higher ground

From last week's hurricane post.

A common, perhaps even the standard framing of rising sea levels is that it's a existential threat for all coastal cities, and while I understand the desire not to downplay the crisis, this isn't true. For cities with relatively high elevations like Los Angeles (a few low-lying neighborhoods, but most of it hundreds and some of it thousands of feet above sea-level) or cities with at least moderate elevations and little danger from tropical cyclones (like almost all major cites on the West Coast), we are talking about a problem but not a catastrophe (The remnants of hurricanes we do see in California are generally more good news than bad. Kay broke our recent heat wave and gave some relief to firefighters). Some beaches will be lost and a few people will have to relocate, but compared to drought and triple-digit temperatures, that's a fairly manageable situation.  

Of course, the real tragedy of this framing is not that it overstates the threat to the West Coast, but that it dangerously understates the immediate and genuinely existential threat to many cities on the East and Gulf Coasts. 

While New York City is not in danger of total oblivion the way Miami or Jacksonville are, it is far from safe from the threats associated with rising sea levels. The area has frequently been hit by hurricanes including two category 3s in the past hundred years. Given climate change trends, the city probably won't have to (Read more...)