A year after Hurricane Irene didn't quite hit New York City, we still probably aren't doing enough to prepare for a Waterworld future in which the seas keep rising and rising. Sure, we all now have designated evacuation zones, but that doesn't exactly keep the water from slipping through the front door. And that could be a problem for thousands of New Yorkers in the future!
Rather than dwelling too much on other thing going on today, the Times goes long this morning on the Big Apple's soggy future—and it doesn't look good unless you like the idea of submarine subways. The problem, obviously, is that the ocean keeps rising, and despite being above sea level, NYC is second only to "New Orleans in the number of people living less than four feet above high tide—nearly 200,000 New Yorkers, according to the research group Climate Central."
That means that the next time a big storm comes—and one will eventually—we're going to have to deal with that Zone stuff again. And every passing year those zones are going to get a little bit larger:
With higher seas, a common storm could prove as damaging as the rare big storm or hurricane is today, scientists say. Were sea levels to rise four feet by the 2080s, for example, 34 percent of the city’s streets could lie in the flood-risk zone, compared with just 11 percent now, a 2011 study commissioned by the state said.
So what to do now? Move to higher ground! But seriously, that's a big issue and there are lots of different solutions—and a lot of them are hard sells since they involve future threats. Things like high-tech barriers and aquatic gates to protect from storm surges are being assessed. But before we event get to the idea of a $10 billion high-tide blocking system the MTA (which, after all, spent $110 million cleaning up Irene) is trying to prepare its tunnels for the future deluge. In the past five years it has spent $34 million in improvements to keep flooding at bay and will keep spending on similar project going forward, even if it hurts service now:
"This is a vicious circle of the worst kind," Projjal Dutta, the transportation agency’s director of sustainability, said of the financial effect [of the precautions]. "You’re cutting public transportation, which cuts down greenhouse gases, to harden against climate change."