Last Friday, noting a story about the extent to which concerns about sea level rise from climate change might affect development in East Boston, I wondered whether battles over whether and how to adapt to climate change might be moving from the realm of the hypothetical to the realm of the real. Climate Wire has now begun a series of stories on how cities are planning for climate change. This week, there have been stories about Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Hallandale Beach, Florida.
The long-term picture in these cities is no prettier than that of East Boston. The specifics don’t matter so much as the scope, though there are some similarities. In Portsmouth, one concern is that the causeway leading to New Castle will be submerged. In New Hallandale, a recent analysis indicated that 893 miles of roads from Miami to Palm Beach will be under water at high tide if sea level rises by three feet. In Portsmouth, there is concern about what will happen to sewers containing combined storm and sewage flows – now that’s a pretty picture – while in Hallandale Beach, the concern is that encroaching salt water will impact current fresh water supplies.
The real question is when to start planning, and how. How much planning should be focused on changing standards for new development and how much on protecting existing infrastructure? Of course, as an alternative, there’s always the approach of one of my favorites, Graham Parker, in his song Stick to the Plan.