How the impending rise in sea levels caused by increasing amounts of carbon dioxide in the air will make life on the edge of the ocean very different over the next century.
In this gripping book, Rolling Stone contributing editor Goodell (How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate, 2010, etc.) argues that “sea level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity.” He looks back over the history of human reaction to changing sea levels, particularly during the period 15 millennia ago when the last ice age ended; then, ocean levels were rising 13 feet per century, and people were forced to relocate inland every few years. Now, of course, it’s not so simple. As the author points out, “there’s a terrible irony in the fact that it’s the very infrastructure of the Fossil Fuel Age—the housing developments on the coast, the roads, the railroads, the tunnels, the airports—that make us most vulnerable.” Goodell concentrates most of his attention on the East Coast of the United States. He examines how the foundation of Miami Beach, built from scratch as a tourist destination, makes it particularly subject to destruction. He scrutinizes the Navy base at Norfolk and the efforts of those in charge of maintaining it to prepare for the future in a “climate denial hotspot.” The author also traveled around the world to explore the possibly futile efforts to preserve Venice from rising water and to see what is occurring in the Marshall Islands, whose future as a nation looks insecure. While Goodell occasionally seems to be leaning heavily on those areas where assignments have sent him, overall, this is a well-rounded, persuasive survey. Notes of hope about the possibilities afforded by human flexibility and ingenuity occasionally lighten some of the grimness.
A frightening, scientifically grounded, and starkly relevant look at how climate change will affect coastal cities.