Shanghai threatened by rising seas; climate change
Shanghai, China: city of the future. But could Shanghai’s future include increased flooding and dangerously high water levels? Flooding is always a hazard for low altitude coastal cities. Shanghai sits at only three meters – or ten feet – above sea level, as do other world metropolises also threatened by higher waters, such as New York, London, Miami, Tokyo, Mumbai and Amsterdam. Perhaps they should call it ‘Shang-low’. But seriously, rising sea levels are no joke.
Warming temperatures due to climate change are melting polar ice caps and glaciers; and causing desertification – all factors which can contribute to higher sea levels. Chinese cities, with their enormous and burgeoning populations, are among the most vulnerable. So much of China’s population, industry, wealth and infrastructure are based on low lying coastal plains or river deltas like that of the Yangtze River, home to 80 million people.
Rising seas taint fresh water resources, erode coastal areas and even endanger entire island nations such as the Maldives and Tuvalu. Shanghai itself is sinking and has been doing so for years from the pumping of groundwater and the massive weight of its colossal skyscrapers and huge infrastructure. Though already fitted with precautions and systems to deal with typhoons common to the region, Shanghai is looking into ways in which it might deal with worsening conditions due to climate change. London and the Netherlands may provide inspiration for further storm barriers.
Shanghai need not look too far to see what storms can do to a city. Last September the Philippine capital Manila was hit hard by Tropical Storm Ketsana, resulting in an official state of emergency due to massive flooding, which left hundreds dead and caused an estimated $100 million in damage. Just two years earlier Typhoon Wipha battered Shanghai with heavy rains and hard winds, prompting large-scale evacuations and cancellations.
With such heavy industrialization, development and urbanization taking place in China – with Shanghai at its forefront – authorities are naturally considering the dangers exacerbated by climate change and non-sustainable practices. The questions are how seriously they will take looming threats posed by rising sea levels and sinking buildings and what sacrifices they are willing to make. If China – and the rest of the world – continues to value short-term benefits over sustainability, it is the coming generations that will pay the real cost of such a headlong rush into the future, and they may indeed suffer greatly rather than profit from all the hard work taking place now. If all that wealth is to be washed away in 50 or 70 years time due to short sightedness, what’s the point?
Read more about the rising tide in Shanghai in this Associated Press article from October 18th, available on msnbc.
By Graham Land