Climate change is beginning to touch the life of every person on this planet, whether through heat waves, drought, floods, or the ripple effects of increasingly weird weather. Especially vulnerable are the more than 600 million people on the globe — about one in every eight of us — who live in coastal areas that are less than 30 feet above sea level.
As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, the waters are warming and expanding. As the glaciers melt, they add yet more water to the ocean. The resulting sea level rise is already measurable around the globe. At the same time, climate change is creating more and greater storms. Together, storms and rising waters are threatening the world’s coastlines.
Some of these threats are already well known and carefully documented: the Pacific island of Tuvalu, the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, the Alaskan island of Shishmaref in the Chukchi Sea. But major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and New Orleans are in the same leaky boat. And people who do not live directly along the coast share this risk as floodwaters inundate subways, sewage treatment plants, airports, and farmland.
We have reached a tipping point. While it is vital that we eliminate the emissions causing climate change, it is now time to acknowledge that we can’t turn back the clock. Even if we were to stop driving every car on the planet today, we would still face serious sea level flooding worldwide over the next 50 years. Adapting to climate change impacts that we can no longer halt must become part of the game plan.
RISE: Climate Change and Coastal Communities explores this international issue through the lens of a single place: the San Francisco Bay Area. These six stories take a look at the personal lives of men and women living along the water who are facing a rising tide.
How will they adapt to a changing planet? How can we as a society protect our population? Please join us on this journey. And please continue the conversation.
Mortgaging the Future
In the development rush of the 1960’s 40% of the San Francisco Bay was filled in. One result was Foster City, built completely on wetlands and sitting at sea level. But rising seas, higher waves and storm surges, brought on by climate change, threaten the levees in front of this city. T. Jack Foster Junior, who built this town, paints a rosier picture of the area’s future.