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Because of the long time lag, they are also certain that sea level will continue to climb for decades, regardless of efforts to forestall global warming. [...] the sea is not actually level, because of local variations in gravitational attraction. [...] he suggests that coastal resilience can be enhanced by "nurturing critical social networks and institutions" and promoting a "diverse local economy."
An ocean of worry BOOKS gapore, are especially imperiled. Equally worrisome is the advance of seawater tive approaches, they demonstrate, are always extraordinarily expensive and can The Rising Sea into the agriculturally vital deltas of only be provisional. Arguing in hard- eastern and southern Asia, a process headed economic terms, the authors by Orrin H. Pilkey and Rob Young. that will undermine global food secu- emphasize the conservative nature of Washington, DC: Island Press, 2009, rity and eventually generate streams of their overarching proposal. 193 pp. environmental refugees. Entire countries Planning for Coastal composed of low-lying atolls, such as Tuvalu and the Maldives, may be entirely Resilience: Best Practices for submerged, forcing their inhabitants Calamitous Times to higher islands or continents. Find- ing havens for such displaced nations by Timothy Beatley. Washington, DC: will, to say the least, present its own Island Press, 2009, 181 pp. economic and geopolitical dilemmas. Martin W. Lewis The Rising Sea outlines several strate- gies that could be deployed to protect Although Orrin Pilkey and Rob Young vulnerable communities from the are skeptical of mathematical models mounting waters, but none are cost-effec- that specify how high and how quickly tive. Seawalls and other forms of coastal sea level will rise, they have no doubt armoring can only temporarily defend that the oceans are expanding. Because limited areas at great expense; shore- of the long time lag, they are also cer- lines so hardened will eventually turn tain that sea level will continue to climb into wave-battered capes as neighbor- for decades, regardless of efforts to ing stretches of coast retreat. Replen- forestall global warming. We must ishing eroded beaches with sand hauled Pilkey and Young realize that few therefore accept the inevitability of in from elsewhere, another commonly self-styled conservatives will warm to coastline retreat and plan for at least a favored strategy, is similarly dismissed their prescriptions. As they show in a seven-foot rise by 2100. Failure to do as exorbitant, ecologically destructive, chapter aptly entitled “A Sea of Denial,” so, the authors warn, will exacerbate an and doomed to failure as the sea con- economic interests threatened by cli- impending crisis. tinues to rise. mate change strive to manufacture As Pilkey and Young demonstrate, the Facing the inevitable, Pilkey and doubt about the underlying environmen- rising sea threatens not only beaches, Young find only one viable approach: tal processes. Although a handful of coastal wetlands, mangrove swamps, wholesale retreat from beaches and reputable scientists do deny global and coral reefs, but also the global econ- other low-lying coastal areas. We must warming as well as its concomitant omy and perhaps even the international pull back, they argue, and allow the sea-level rise, their arguments con- political system. The inundation of low- sea to reclaim land and infrastructure tinue to be discredited. Journalists who lying neighborhoods in coastal cities alike. In some cases buildings might be frame the resulting controversies as is all but certain. Several major finan- moved, but most structures along the “unsettled debates” thus do the public cial centers, including Miami and Sin- shoreline must be abandone
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