Rising Seas, Sinking Cities and the Remaking of the Civilised World

Meehan Crist in the London Review of Books:

34523152After Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, I helped a friend in Brooklyn remove her car battery, put it in a backpack and lug it over to Wall Street. The subways were flooded, so we took a ferry across the East River to downtown Manhattan, where a muddy grey waterline cut across ground-floor walls and windows. The ocean had come and gone, and the mouldering streets were deserted. The air smelled of briny rot and the only sound was the industrial hum of generators pumping water from flooded basements. Orange accordion tubing snaked in and out of waterlogged buildings. We turned into the lobby of an apartment building where residents wandered in a commiserating daze and an exhausted man in uniform was laying out a plate of fresh fruit, presumably procured from somewhere far uptown, where people still had power and running water and the sudden absurdity of brunch. A paraplegic friend on an upper floor needed the car battery to help power her ventilator. The elevators were out of commission, so we walked up twenty narrow flights of stairs, lighting our way in the dark with torches. Inside the apartment, the friend and her roommate, also paraplegic, had abandoned their motorised wheelchairs and lay in their beds in a sunny front room, laughing and chatting. It wasn’t clear when the power would be back, but when things returned to normal they planned to have a party. I don’t think anyone in that room fully grasped, then, that the ocean would be coming back to stay.

Global sea level rise is hard for scientists to predict, but the trend is clear.

More here.