– Picture a map of Florida with its long sandy beaches and wetlands, or cities like New York,
Venice, and Alexandria, all metropolises with some
pretty watery boundaries. Now, try to picture what these
might look like in 100 years. The Sunshine State might
look very different than it does today. The same goes for
Manhattan Island or Mumbai. This is our best guess of a warmer future, one where sea levels are gnawing away at the corners of our
carefully drawn maps. Coastal cities are first
in line for big changes, and some that can afford it are
gearing up to spend billions to make sure they survive. – You might think of the great ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica
as giant banks of freezers. And we’re running down those rows of freezers unplugging them. – That’s Ben Strauss, CEO and Chief Scientist
of Climate Central. They’re a non-profit organization that researches and
reports on climate change including sea level rise. Researchers like Ben have
concluded that the world is guaranteed to see four
feet of sea level rise by 2100 just based on greenhouse gases we’ve already put into the atmosphere. – Once we unplug a
freezer, it’s unplugged. You can’t plug it back in
and it’s going to melt. – That’s pretty scary, especially
if you live on a coast. And according to the UN, more than 600 million
people live in coastal areas that are less than 30
feet above sea level. And any amount of further emissions will cause sea levels to rise higher, with scientists like Ben expecting a rise of 10 to 20 feet or more
by the end of this century. Some coastal areas are already struggling. During some high tides in Miami, water already slides across city streets. This is happening now and it’s a physical sign
of rising sea levels. – There are already neighborhoods
in the United States that I know about where real
estate value has evaporated because floods that used
to be rare or non-existent now happen multiple times a year. It’s a block here or a block there, but it’s really affecting people. – Climate Central created a
visualizer called Surging Seas to drive this point home. It shows how coastal cities will fare as the climate heats up. Look at New York, New
Orleans, Shanghai or Lagos, and you’ll see how melting ice
could push shorelines inland. It’s one of a few projects online that are designed to make
the threat feel immediate. – I think climate change
tends to be such an abstract and distant seeming
problem for most people. We want to make it as real
and personal as possible. People being able to look
up their own neighborhood, their own home helps to do that. – Here in New York, the sea
level is actually rising faster than in lots of other
parts of the country. We did a whole video about it. Anyway, earlier this year, the city unveiled an ambitious plan to keep the lower part of Manhattan safe. – I often said after
Sandy, you don’t find a lot of climate change
deniers in New York City. – They plan to fortify the city. It may actually build
outland into the East River by 50 to 100 feet. It’s not the first time that New York has
reclaimed land from water, but prior expansions were mostly done to increase living space, this one will be to keep the water away from our living rooms. The plan will cost an
estimated 10 billion dollars. – We can’t overstate the
disruption that it would cause to take no action, so we
absolutely have to act. – Jainey Bavishi is the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Resiliency. Her team collaborated on a big study that looked into the climate
risks faced by Lower Manhattan. – So we didn’t just look at
sea level rise and storm surge, but we also looked at
(mumbling) precipitation and extreme heat. And across the city, we’re taking steps to address
these multiple hazards and multiple risks that we
face from climate change. – For anyone living near the coast, sea level rise presents problems. But for cities, the
issues are really unique. – Imagine water pouring into
the streets on a regular basis just during high tide. You open your door and you walk into a
street filled with water. It would impact underground
infrastructure that we rely on. Imagine subway tunnels getting
flooded on a regular basis or the foundations of buildings corroding. – In addition to building
out into the river, the city plans to install
flood gates at critical places that would flip up in a flood to keep water out of low-lying land. But for now, these plans
are still just concepts. They aren’t even sure how
they’ll pay for it yet, but private funding is still on the table. – We’re not planning for development, but that also depends on whether or not we’re able to get funding
from the federal government. We’ll have to figure
out how to finance this. If funding doesn’t come
from the federal government, then development might
be part of the solution. – [Mary Beth] Wandering
around Lower Manhattan, it’s spooky to think
about how dramatically climate change could
redraw these city blocks. And it’s obvious that
one threatened area here is driving a lot of the
urgency, Wall Street. – So Lower Manhattan is an
economic center of the city. One in 10 jobs are located
in Lower Manhattan. 75% of subway lines go
through Lower Manhattan. So we know that we need
to protect Lower Manhattan in order to protect the economic
vitality of New York City. – But in a lot of places
in the U.S. alone, extreme preventative measures like New York’s are out of reach. Two communities, one in Alaska
and another in Louisiana are relocating to get away
from rapidly eroding coasts. And a 2018 study found that as many as 311,000
houses in the United States will be vulnerable to
chronic flooding by 2045. In other words, climate
migration is already a reality. And policy makers here in New
York want to avoid the chaos that could come from displacing a city of almost nine million people. – You can’t just pick up
and move a city very easily and because cities are such
important concentrations of human lives and economic activity, I think we will invest a
great deal in defending them. I don’t expect us to be
trying to move Manhattan. I expect us to be defending
it as vigorously as we can. – We might not have as much time to build out the barricades
as you might think. While most projections focus on 2100, it’s not like sea levels will wait ’til 2099 to suddenly attack. Water will trickle in slowly,
seeping into our lives and disrupting infrastructure,
property values, and coastlines in the process. It won’t be sudden, but it will be fast. – It’s the speed of change that I think is the most
dangerous thing about it. A bullet isn’t dangerous if
I’m holding it in my hand or throwing it at you. It’s the speed of the bullet
that makes it dangerous. It’s the speed of climate
change and sea level rise which are going to make them dangerous. – If you want to learn
more about sea level rise including why it doesn’t rise at the same rate in all places, check out our other video and don’t forget to subscribe. Thanks.