Updated by Paul Keskeys, February 2017
Climate change is one of the most serious issues facing the world’s cities in the 21st century, but so far those scientists — together with policymakers and planners — have come up with few solutions to mitigate its calamitous effects. While flooding disasters like hurricanes Katrina and Sandy have brought attention to the dangers posed by stronger storms in recent years, there are plenty of other threats — such as rising sea levels — that might be even more pressing.
As American politicians and the wider scientific community commence fresh battles over the legitimacy of global warming and its possible causes, the imminent threat of submersion, drought and other climate-related problems continues to pose a real danger to many low-lying island and coastal developments. Here, we take a look at just a few of the cities affected.
Via Skyscraper City
The capital city of this archipelago nation occupies one small island, which will soon be overwhelmed by rising sea levels. The former prime minister of the Maldives went as far as to try to buy land in other countries for his citizens to resettle. This plan is not going forward, though with an average elevation of three feet above sea level, the nation is running out of time.
The city’s dependence on drought-stricken desert waterways is leading to disaster, as several million people drain available resources. When the water runs out, will the city wither? Dust storms are already a problem, and dry conditions are leading city governments to encourage residents to tear up their lawns.
Via NY Daily News
The residents of this small Alaskan island are slated to become the first climate change refugees. The narrow spit of land is normally protected from erosion by sea ice, but the melting of this ice means that the land is slowly disappearing.
New York, New York
Hurricane Sandy showed the somewhat perilous position of America’s cultural capital, as subways and tunnels flooded, transformers exploded and coastal communities such as Coney Island and the Rockaways were left reeling months after the disaster. Rising sea levels and more frequent storms might prompt the permanent evacuation of some areas.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Like Phoenix, Las Vegas is faced with major water shortages as its primary source, the Colorado River, slowly dries up. Water levels in Lake Mead, the city’s principal reservoir, have already dropped considerably.
Like much of South Florida, Miami sits just above sea level, putting it in danger of flooding. Florida used to be all marsh before developers built vacation towns on drained land and forced the Everglades to retreat.
Via R. Scott Davis
Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Deltas are extremely low-lying areas, formed by alluvial sediments built up by rivers. The Mekong possesses some resiliency (with the exception of its largest settlement, Ho Chi Minh City) because many of its inhabitants have adopted a life on the water with boats and stilt houses.
New Orleans, Louisiana
As Hurricane Katrina showed, New Orleans is in grave danger of flooding because much of it sits below sea level.
Much of Bangladesh sits on the Ganges Delta, an extremely populous and flood-prone area. Tropical storms and heavy monsoons have already claimed many lives, though sea level rise and stronger storms could exacerbate the danger.
Cities of the Sahel, Subsaharan Africa
The Sahel is a large band of semiarid grassland south of the Sahara desert. Drought is causing the Sahara to expand and push south, displacing hundreds of thousands of people.
This canal city, famed for its beautiful gardens, faces a similar fate to many Delta cities. It, as well as nearby Shanghai, sit on the shallow banks of marshy rivers.
Via China Daily
Not only are water levels in the Adriatic Sea rising, but Venice is also sinking as its wood stilt foundations rot and as fresh water aquifers are depleted. Several sea barriers at the entrance to its lagoon aim to stop floodwaters, but the Piazza San Marco is still inundated several times per year.
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
Though much of the Netherlands sits below sea level, the country is perhaps the best prepared to face sea level rise because it has been fending off the North Sea for hundreds of years. Barrier systems, dikes and floating houses are all part of the solution.
This low-lying Pacific nation will be one of the first to disappear beneath the waves. Its leaders have recently asked Australia and New Zealand to take in its citizens as refugees. Its flag is a portent of its fate: A bird looks for a place to land among the waves.
Like this article? Check out Architecture for Flood Defense and Architectural Alternatives to AC.