The Guardian reports on a just-published paper in the scientific journal Nature. The new data suggest sea level rise could be twice that predicted for the next century–2 meters instead of 1. Doesnt sound like much? Think again. This means that development going in today at 20 feet above sea level, in 100 years, maybe less, will be at 14 ft elevation. A very large change when you think about storm tides from just moderate storms. 20ft is low, but it would take a pretty big storm to cause major inundation at that elevation. But 12-14 feet is a whole ‘nother story!
See the photo below, from Google Earth, of new development going in at about 20-25 ft elevation along I-45, just where the Lowry expressway takes off. Probably not much thought about sea level rise went into this project. How would buyers react if they knew how things might change. Well, mortgages only go for 30 years, and most people stay in a house for only about 5 or so. So maybe the developer is making a good bet.
But what about the dikes and levees being proposed for storm surge protection? These dikes will be built for today’s conditions. Unlike houses, dikes are a very serious investment, and we should expect a working dike well past 100 years. Are dikes the most logical investment for our future?
There is a lot of clamoring for our area TO DO SOMETHING! BEFORE THE BIG ONE HITS! And it is all about structural solutions. What about planning? Are we building in the right kinds of places? Are we building the right kinds of places–places we really do want to defend, and that might be worth building tough enough to weather the storms? We need to expand the conversation. Sea level is expanding it for us where we like it or not!