The Housing Chronicles Blog: Build on inland, high ground and they will come -- eventually.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Build on inland, high ground and they will come -- eventually.

One of the most constant arguments against efforts such as the Kyoto Treaty is that the world is so far past the tipping point on global warming that we should really be focusing on adapting to a new reality.

Writing in Newsweek, Sharon Begley provides an overview of what can be expected as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continues to rise no matter how many Priuses replace Lincoln Navigators:

It's such a polite, unthreatening word: "adapt." The kind of thing you do as you roll with the punches or keep a stiff upper lip, modifying your behavior to a new situation. But as it will be used in 2008, adaptation is a euphemism for widespread, expensive changes that will be needed to cope with climate change. Although some adaptations will be modest and low tech, such as cities' establishing cooling centers to shelter residents during heat waves, others will require such herculean efforts and be so costly that we'll look back on the era beginning in 1988, when credible warnings of climate change reached critical mass, and wonder why we were so stupid as to blow the chance to keep global warming to nothing more extreme than a few more mild days in March...

No comment on THAT question from this blogger.

Melting glaciers will trigger "glacier lake outburst floods,"...Permafrost is melting, so villages and roads in the (once) frozen north that are built on it will have to be relocated. Sea-level rise is inundating the wetlands and mangrove swamps that once absorbed storm surges; sea-wall design and construction will also be a growth industry, at least in areas that can afford it. For the tens of millions of Bangladeshis and other impoverished people living in coastal regions that will be underwater, inland areas can "adapt" by making room for unprecedented waves of environmental refugees...

Already some cities (New York, Seattle) and states (California, Alaska, Maryland, Oregon, Washington) have adaptation plans. Alaska is figuring out how to protect or relocate villages at risk from wave surges or flooding. California is beefing up its firefighting capacity because, in a greenhouse world, more forest fires will rage; it has also proposed desalinization plants for when seawater must substitute for rain that never fell and snowpack that never accumulated. Other locales are requiring new bridges to be built above anticipated storm surges (as for existing bridges, good luck) and developing heat-wave early-warning systems so they can ramp up cooling centers and get the word out to at-risk populations such as the elderly.

Hey, maybe some of those various impact fees from cities and counties can actually be put to good use?

One can always hope.

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