Messaging about sea level rise

I am disturbed by the blanket statements like “Eastern cities would disappear” in presentations like this 2017 example in Business Insider. It’s the wrong message to communicate. More accurately, “Eastern cities will be below sea level and will need massive adaptation and transformation to continue to exist”. It’s not as if we can’t come up with the sea level rise adaptation plans but rather the likelihood, based on current information, that big cities won’t implement them. Just last week New York City announced plans for an ambitious and extremely expensive sea wall around lower Manhattan. To be clear, this is just a small piece of the sustainability plan that NYC will require to survive.

In contrast, rural seaboard communities like mine are making the slow transition from farming to aquaculture and so we might stand a better chance of successful adaptation. That’s the message at the core of Baysave’s communications.

But sustainability for the long term beyond, say, 30 years is all speculative at this point. We are increasingly confident that we can make expensive adaptations to give us sustainability for that period of time and that, IMO, should be the primary message in these types of media presentations. In other words, for our lifetime sustainability of coastal cities is a budgeting issue, not so much a natural disaster issue unless we allow it to be so. Planning beyond that I’ll personally leave to the sharper minds of younger generations.

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