Climate video series: How will coastal cities adapt to sea level rise?
By Robert Sanders
24 October 2017
Kristina Hill, Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning and Urban Design, recently discussed the need for adaptive strategies to address climate change in a recent talk for the Cal Future Forum.
Hill collaborates with the Climate Readiness Institute to address the concerns of coastal cities as sea levels rise. Hill states that while the planet has experienced periods of extreme sea level rise before, this is the first time rapid sea level rise has occurred since the advent of cities. Thus, none of today’s modern infrastructure is prepared to cope with rapid climate change and resulting flooding.
Hill argues that although people tend to consider flooding an East Coast issue, sea level rise has dramatic ramifications for California as well, especially the Bay Area. If the sea level rises just 16 inches, San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport must be shut down, major highways will close, traffic will halt entirely, Facebook and Google’s campuses will flood, and coastal ecosystems will disappear.
In addition to sea level rise, groundwater levels have also been rising, resulting in inland flooding. According to Hill, groundwater flooding is especially catastrophic as it increases earthquake liquefaction risk (the speed of shaking and the amount of damage), agitates contaminants in the soil, and fills sewage pipes with water.
Hill recommends ponds and canal systems be dug as a means to store excess water and redirect floods as groundwater levels rise. Hill also endorses using residual earth from ponds and canals to build levees, known as superdikes, and recommends the construction of floating housing units to prevent flood and earthquake damage.
Hill believes that this two-part strategy would solve both housing needs and environmental concerns as well as align two climate change interests that are often opposed.