Water Will Be This Century’s Great Urban Design Challenge

Water Will Be This Century’s Great Urban Design Challenge

By the end of the century, almost 700 communities in the U.S. will face chronic flooding. 

For decades, waterfront property was some of the most desirable on the market. But a new report shows that if nothing is done to slow the march of climate changes, hundreds of U.S. communities will be seriously threatened by the end of the century. While today there are about 90 communities that face “chronic inundation,” that number could reach nearly 700 by the year 2100, including big cities and smaller towns on both coasts. Flooding is poised to become an important problem across the country within decades–and planners and designers will be on the front lines.

The study was published by the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy organization that focuses on using scientific research to inform politics through papers on topics like clean energynuclear power, and climate changeThis most recent report examines sea level rise that could cause flooding so frequent that it fundamentally disrupts the routines of a community. This is a measure called “chronic inundation,” which the union’s scientists define as when a community experiences flooding on 10% or more of its usable land every other week.

The report looks at three different sea level rise outcomes–one where emissions cause the ice sheets to melt significantly and cause 6.5 feet of sea level rise; one where there’s about 4 feet of sea level rise; and one where the world warms only two degrees Celsius (the goal of the Paris climate agreement).

In the most extreme scenario, the scientists found that 60% of waterfront towns and cities on the East and Gulf Coast will be chronically inundated by 2100. That includes more than 50 urban areas on coastlines, including Oakland, California; Miami; Charleston, South Carolina; New Orleans; and most of New York City.