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36 cities are at risk of submerging in the wake of rising sea levels

36 cities are at risk of submerging in the wake of rising sea levels

More than 226 million people are in danger.

Unfortunately, most of the coastal settlements are under the threat of coastal flooding due to rising sea levels. Some cities are building walls to prevent the land from being flooded, while some of them are coming up with alternative solutions

Climate Central, an independent organization working on the changing climate and its impacts, created an interactive map called Coastal Risk Screening Tool and it shows the areas at risk of being submerged. By choosing the “water level” option, you can see which areas are under threat of being flooded up to 30 feet with the rise of sea levels.

Some cities are in danger

According to a research published in The Swiftest, more than 226 million people in 36 cities are expected to be impacted by rising sea levels. In relation to this fact, they also prepared a visual that demonstrates the 36 largest cities at risk of being flooded if the sea level rises up to 5 feet. In such a scenario, many world cities seem to be in danger including Amsterdam, New York City, Bangkok, and unfortunately but not surprisingly Venice. Very significant landmarks located in these cities are also in danger. Let’s have a look at some.

St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice

St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice has already suffered from several flooding in recent years. Venice’s topography makes it especially vulnerable to sea-level rise. The city is only 3.2 feet above the waterline and has been sinking for many centuries. It is expected to see a sea-level rise of 120 centimeters by the end of the 21st century, and this is 50 percent higher than the average predictions for worldwide sea-level rise by 2100.

Miami Beach in Florida

Miami is one of the cities that is not very above the waterline as well. It is only 7ft. above the waterline. Particularly Miami Beach, a popular tourist destination, has been experiencing serious flooding for years. Some measures are being taken such as installing pumps, raising roads, and restoring wetlands. Additionally, the state of Florida is investing $4 billion in preventing further damage, but considering the rapidly rising sea level, it’s appropriate to say that the city is racing against time.

Statue of Liberty in New York City

The frequency of floods in New York City has increased severely and last year, the city faced its first flash flood emergency. The city is 32 feet above the waterline and is also at risk from rising sea levels. The sea level is expected to rise up to 7-29 inches by 2050. As a method of prevention, New York City has started the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project in order to protect its residents from extreme weather conditions in the future. And unfortunately, the Statue of Liberty carries a huge potential of being damaged from sea-level rise and extreme weather conditions.

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Australian Antarctic expeditioners have discovered an enormous, 2-kilometre-deep canyon underneath a glacier that may make it more vulnerable to warming oceans.


One of the most populated cities in the US is preparing for what may now be inevitable: submersion. New York city has started a huge climate resiliency project to try and avoid the mistakes of the past and protect itself against the extreme weather of the future.

What has been done to reduce the sea-level rise? 

We have already witnessed some preventional trials from countries. For example, Jakarta, the sinking capital of Indonesia, is constructing a sea wall to tackle the tide. Hudson River Storm Surge Barriers is also another plan to protect the shorelines around New York City from extreme weather conditions and sea-level rise. 

Time will show if these methods will do well enough to tussle with mother nature. But one thing is sure that it’ll take great engineering and technology.


Mert Erdemir at Interesting Engineering

Greenland lost enough ice in last 2 decades to cover entire US in 1.5 feet of water

Greenland lost enough ice in last 2 decades to cover entire US in 1.5 feet of water

The world’s largest island is losing its ice cap fast.

The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on the planet, and the toll on Greenland‘s massive ice sheet is becoming achingly clear.

According to new satellite data compiled by Polar Portal, a collection of four Danish government research institutions, Greenland has lost more than 5,100 billion tons (4,700 billion metric tons) of ice in the past 20 years — or roughly enough to flood the entire United States in 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) of water.

This extensive ice loss has contributed to half an inch (1.2 centimeters) of global sea-level rise in just two decades, the researchers wrote on their website.

The team’s data covers the 20 years from April 2002 to August 2021 and is based on observations taken by the Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) fleet of satellites, which launched in March 2002. These satellites measure changes in gravity around the world, which reflect how mass is distributed around the Earth over time. This is especially useful for estimating changes to ice mass, the Polar Portal team said.

This satellite map shows regions fo highest ice loss (dark red) in Greenland as of August, 2021. The West Greenland coast has been hit hardest, likely due to warming temperatures in the Arctic Ocean. (Image credit: GRACE/ Polar Portal)
This satellite map shows regions fo highest ice loss (dark red) in Greenland as of August, 2021. The West Greenland coast has been hit hardest, likely due to warming temperatures in the Arctic Ocean. (Image credit: GRACE/ Polar Portal)

The GRACE data shows that Greenland’s ice loss is most severe around the coasts, where the ice is rapidly thinning and toppling into the ocean. Ice loss is particularly stark on the West Greenland coast, where warming subsurface waters are thought to be intensifying glacial melt, according to NASA. (The GRACE mission is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center).

Greenland’s ice melt is one of the main factors driving sea-level rise in response to climate change, according to NASA. Greenland is currently on track to contribute 3 to 5 inches (7 to 13 cm) to global sea-level rise by the year 2100, according to a 2019 study in the journal Nature — which could have devastating results.

The Thwaites Ice Shelf edge on Oct. 16, 2012. NASA / James Yungel


A crucial ice shelf in Antarctica is at risk of collapse within as little as five years, scientists at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union said on Monday.


The highest glacier on the world’s tallest mountain is losing decades worth of ice every year because of human-induced climate change, a new study shows.

“As a rule of thumb, for every centimeter rise in global sea level, another 6 million people are exposed to coastal flooding around the planet,” Andrew Shepherd, lead study author and climate scientist from the University of Leeds in the U.K., told NASA in 2019. “On current trends, Greenland ice melting will cause 100 million people to be flooded each year by the end of the century, so 400 million in total due to sea-level rise.”

Greenland contains the world’s only permanent ice sheet outside of Antarctica. Together, Greenland and Antarctica contain 99% of the world’s total freshwater reserves. If the entire Greenland ice sheet melts, it could raise global sea levels by a staggering 24 feet (7.4 m); meanwhile, Antarctica contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by more than 200 feet (60 m) if totally melted, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.


Brandon Specktor at space.com

Multi-century sea level rise may lead to unprecedented threats to coastal cities

Multi-century sea level rise may lead to unprecedented threats to coastal cities

Sea level rise projections generally focus on the second half of this century, but we all know that sea level will continue to rise for centuries or millennia into the future.

Recently a study was published where the authors combined information on long-term projections of sea level rise, coastal elevation, and population density to assess coastal flood risk at the global scale from multi-century sea level rise. They did so for different levels of global warming, ranging from 1.5 °C to 4 °C.

Long-term sea level rise

They showed that 4 °C global warming would lead to 8.9 m of global mean sea level rise somewhere between 200 and 2000 years from now. 1.5 °C global warming would lead to ‘only’ 2.9 m of global mean sea level rise. These numbers are median estimates: a central value in a range of estimates where 50% of the model results are higher and lower than this median value, respectively.

Exposure of population and built environment

It is of course impossible to estimate the population living in low-elevation coastal zones, globally, hundreds of years from now. The authors, therefore, took the current population living near the coast and calculated the extra number of people that would be exposed to coastal flooding at higher sea levels. The built environment, they argue, is largely immovable and the current situation is a good proxy for the future.

Global exposure

Currently, 2.5%–3.0% of the global population (170–200 million) lives in coastal zones that is projected to fall below the high tide line in 2100 if mean sea level were to rise by 0.48–0.73 m. Without adequate flood protection, this part of the global population may be considered vulnerable to coastal flooding by 2100. The authors estimated that 2 °C global warming, the proposed upper limit of the Paris Climate Agreement, would lead to a median 4.7 m of global mean sea level rise on the long run and threaten land now home to roughly 10% of the global population. A pessimistic – upper limit – estimate of 10.8 m of global mean sea level rise following 4 °C global warming could affect land now home to up to one billion people, or 15% of the current global population.

National exposures

East, Southeast, and South Asia face the greatest overall exposure to sea level rise both this century and later. Of all nations with a total population of at least 25 million, Asian countries make up nine of the top ten most at-risk nations. Land home to over half the populations of Bangladesh and Vietnam may become exposed to coastal flooding even if warming is limited to 2 °C.

Many smaller nations, particularly islands, will become extremely vulnerable to coastal flooding. With 2 °C global warming, more than 80% of the population of the Cocos Islands, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Cayman Islands, Tokelau, Tuvalu, and the Bahamas on the long run will be living in land threatened by flooding. With 4 °C global warming, this percentage will be over 90%.

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One of the most populated cities in the US is preparing for what may now be inevitable: submersion. New York city has started a huge climate resiliency project to try and avoid the mistakes of the past and protect itself against the extreme weather of the future.


Greenland’s ice sheet, the biggest ice sheet in the world behind Antarctica, has melted so much in the past decade that global sea levels rose by 1 centimeter, and trends predict sea levels can rise nearly a foot higher by the end of the century.

City-level exposures

On the long run, with 4 °C global warming leading to a median projected 8.9 m of global mean sea level rise, at least 50 major cities with a population of at least one million, mostly in Asia, would need to defend against globally unprecedented levels of exposure, if feasible. About half of these cities are also threatened at 2 °C global warming. The vulnerable cities in Asia include megacities with a population over 10 million such as Haora, Shanghai, Hanoi, and Dhaka.


A study that looks hundreds of years into the future must be based on assumptions that simplify reality. Taking the current population as a constant for the multi-century scenarios is one of them. Also, the analysis assumes that global emissions do not become negative while in the long run greenhouse gases may be extracted from the atmosphere on a massive scale, reducing long-term sea level rise. On the other hand, no unstoppable collapse of major ice sheets has been included in the analysis while Antarctic ice sheet breakdown may lead to higher multi-century sea levels than projected in this study. Finally, the impact of present or future artificial coastal defenses was not considered.



New York hopes to avoid the worst of climate change with their resiliency plan

New York hopes to avoid the worst of climate change with their resiliency plan

One of the most populated cities in the US is preparing for what may now be inevitable: submersion. New York city has started a huge climate resiliency project to try and avoid the mistakes of the past and protect itself against the extreme weather of the future.

The economic hub of the US is highly vulnerable to climate change. With 836km of coastline, experts fear that sea levels will rise by 20-75 cm by 2050. This increase could put some New York underwater, particularly the island of Manhattan.

With a population of 8.5 million people, 2012’s Hurricane Sandy and Storms Ida and Henri this summer caused billions of dollars of damage to America’s largest city as well as over 50 deaths.

With its unique geographical position, the ‘Big Apple’ is extremely vulnerable to bad weather and has recently adopted a climate resilience plan costing $20 billion (€17.7 billion) to try and preempt future storms.

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Greenland’s ice sheet, the biggest ice sheet in the world behind Antarctica, has melted so much in the past decade that global sea levels rose by 1 centimeter, and trends predict sea levels can rise nearly a foot higher by the end of the century.

One of the projects is trying to protect the many residents of Manhattan. The East Side Coastal Resiliency Project aims to protect 110,000 New Yorkers on Manhattan’s East Side, from Montgomery Street up to East 25th Street.

As part of the $1.45 billion (€1.3 billion) project, work has started in southeast Manhattan to erect an integrated 4km system of raised parkland, floodwalls, berms and movable floodgates to create a continuous line of protection against sea-level rises and the growing threat of stronger, more severe coastal storms worsened by climate change.

“This project will keep New Yorkers safe from coastal storms and rising seas for decades to come, while also investing in amenities and improving access to public spaces on the East Side of Manhattan,” says the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Climate Resiliency, Jainey Bavishi.

Manhattan will also be replanting thousands of trees around the construction site and improving underground systems for sewers.


Doloresz Katanich at Euronews.Green

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting so fast, it’s raising sea levels and creating global flood risk

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting so fast, it’s raising sea levels and creating global flood risk

Greenland’s ice sheet, the biggest ice sheet in the world behind Antarctica, has melted so much in the past decade that global sea levels rose by 1 centimeter, and trends predict sea levels can rise nearly a foot higher by the end of the century.

Greenland’s ice sheet, the biggest ice sheet in the world behind Antarctica, has melted so much in the past decade that global sea levels rose by 1 centimeter, and trends predict sea levels can rise nearly a foot higher by the end of the century.

Research published in the journal Nature Communications on Monday says 3.5 trillion tons of Greenland’s ice sheet melted from 2011 to 2020, which would be enough to flood all of New York City in 14,700 feet of water.

The ice sheet covers more than 656,000 square miles,  and if it were to fully melt, the global sea level would rise about 20 feet, according to the National Snow and Ice Date Center. While much of the ice sheet remains intact, researchers from the University of Leeds Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling in Northern England found it is melting at an exceptional rate, increasing 21% in the past 40 years.

“Observations show that extreme melt events in Greenland have become more frequent and more intense – as well as more erratic – which is a global problem,” Lin Gilbert, co-author of the study, said in a statement

2021 will mark one of the biggest ice melt years for Greenland in history.
2021 will mark one of the biggest Ice Melt years in Greenland’s history. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The team used satellite data from the European Space Agency to estimate the elevation of the ice sheet, the first time a space object has been used to do so. The team found that from 2011 to 2020, the runoff of Greenland’s ice sheet averaged about 357 billion tons a year.

That would, on average, raise the global sea level about 1 millimeter a year, but during that time, two years – 2012 and 2019 – experienced exceptionally more runoff than others as extreme weather led to, “record-breaking levels of ice melting.” In 2019, the runoff was about 527 billion tons.

The discovery comes after the National Snow and Ice Date Center said the sheet’s summer melt increased by 30% from 1979 to 2006 because of higher temperatures.

“Greenland is also vulnerable to an increase in extreme weather events,” said lead author Thomas Slater. “As our climate warms, it’s reasonable to expect that the instances of extreme melting in Greenland will happen more often – observations such as these are an important step in helping us to improve climate models and better predict what will happen this century.”

Slater added there are reasons to feel optimistic about not losing as much ice in the future, but his colleague and co-author, Amber Leeson, painted a dark future. Leeson said that by 2100, the global sea level can rise anywhere from 1 to 9 inches because of melting, which could be dangerous to coastal cities around the world.

“This prediction has a wide range, in part because of uncertainties associated with simulating complex ice melt processes, including those associated with extreme weather,” she said.

Although it was not included in the study, evidence shows that this past summer was already a significant one for the ice sheet. In August, it rained on the summit for the first time since weather recording began there in 1950.

Not only that, but temperatures on the summit, which is 10,551 feet above sea level, were above freezing for more than nine hours, the fourth time it had ever been documented but third time since 2012. The rain and warmer temperatures resulted in an estimated 7 billion tons of rainfall on the ice sheet.


Jordan Mendoza at USA Today

World’s ‘Greenest City’ Will Be Totally Unaffordable Because of Climate Change

World’s ‘Greenest City’ Will Be Totally Unaffordable Because of Climate Change

Flooding in and around Vancouver even in an optimistic scenario could destroy tens of thousands of homes, harm First Nations, and drive up already wild housing prices for everyone.

Five winters ago, one of the biggest local storm surges in 50 years hit Vancouver, a city on the front lines of climate change that’s also among the world’s most expensive places to own a home. “I got scared: ‘Oh, my God, we’re gonna flood,’” recalled Ricky Point, a member of Musqueam First Nation and part of the public works department. 

Point had good reason to be frightened. The Musqueam reserve is located in southeast Vancouver on the banks of the Fraser River and exposed to the Pacific Ocean. Parts of the reserve are close to sea level and could be completely inundated by a flood even just a bit stronger than the norm. 

But Point’s experience wasn’t universally felt among the Vancouver region’s roughly 2.8 million inhabitants. While he agonized over how bad the flooding would get, residents in the relatively nearby neighbourhood of Shaughnessy had much less to fear. This area of leafy streets where mansions have sold for as high as $33 million is 83 metres above sea level.

The storm was a close call. Water levels eventually receded around Musqueam after a few hours without causing much damage. “This will go down in history as the first summer Vancouver really experienced climate change,” a city official said in 2015, of a season that included wildfire smoke, unusually strong storm surges, water shortages, and above-average heat. 

Vancouver reacted by commissioning flood experts and agreeing to spend tens of millions of dollars improving a decades-old system of dikes badly in need of repair. 

But the year also contained a social warning that seems to have gone largely unheeded: If and when climate-intensified flooding inflicts catastrophic damage on Vancouver, many of the city’s richest residents could escape relatively unscathed. As global temperature rise gets worse over the coming decades, the disparity between the city’s most expensive areas and vulnerable communities like Musqueam could widen. 

And if anything, climate experts told VICE News, the potential for a desperately unequal city to become even more divided and unaffordable is far worse than it was in 2015. 

Vancouver’s geography makes it uniquely vulnerable to climate change. A good chunk of its metro area is built on a flood plain, resulting in roughly 250,000 people living within about 1 metre above sea level. Researchers at the University of Southampton several years ago placed it in a global top 20 of flood-exposed cities alongside New Orleans, Miami, New York, Mumbai, and Osaka. 


The city has for over a decade attempted to become one of the most ecologically sustainable places on the planet. It has built dense housing near transit hubs, planted trees, and expanded a large network of bike lanes. This fall the UK group Business Waste named Vancouver the world’s “greenest city” for its innovative waste recycling programs. 

Yet all this has taken place against a deepening affordability crisis. The Vancouver region’s average home price is around $1.2 million. It’s the most unaffordable city in North America, an Oxford Economics team concluded this week. 

For years, city planners have largely treated climate risk and housing unaffordability as two separate and unrelated challenges. But as ocean levels rise due to global heating, social inequality and unaffordability in Vancouver could rise along with them—and experts contacted by VICE News said the city is nowhere near prepared for the consequences. 

In the event of a catastrophic surge of water that inundates huge swaths of Metro Vancouver, more than 200,000 people, including members of Musqueam, would be displaced, according to the Fraser Basin Council, a nonprofit group focused on sustainability. Yet the city’s most expensive neighborhoods, which largely sit on higher elevation and include the $66.8 million mansion of Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, could stay mostly dry.

Compounding these risks, roughly 10 percent of new building permits granted by the City of Vancouver in recent years, including essential infrastructure like hospitals, are in a 100-year flood plain—meaning there’s a 1 in 100 chance of a flood occurring in a given year, the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices calculates. This means that buildings worth potentially $1 billion could be at risk of damaging flooding. 

The market seems equally oblivious to climate dangers in the nearby municipality of Richmond, where a VICE News analysis found more than a dozen of the most expensive property listings could experience annual flooding by 2030. 

As these risks intensify over the coming decades, an estimated 1 million people are expected to move to Metro Vancouver.

Combine all these factors—increasing odds of damaging floods, ridiculously high home prices, new buildings in vulnerable areas, and a coming wave of migrants—and you have a situation where Vancouver’s already extreme unaffordability could shift into overdrive.


Like countless other cities, Vancouver’s inequities have been heightened by the coronavirus pandemic: The relatively wealthy worked from home while “essential workers” gambled their health for lower wages. But that could look minor compared to the looming social upheavals of global temperature rise, said Andy Yan, a prominent urban planner in Vancouver and professor at Simon Fraser University. What happens here on the west coast of Canada could play out across the world. 

“COVID is the 30-second sneak-peek trailer of what is probably going to be a two-and-a-half-hour cinematic blockbuster,” he told VICE News. “What’s going to happen with climate change is that our preexisting social and economic inequalities are just going to be amplified.” 

For years, city planners have debated what to do about Crescent Beach, a low-lying area of Metro Vancouver where seawater regularly overcomes a system of flood controls and pools near homes. “We all talk about climate change, but Crescent Beach is a case where it’s already here,” a local city worker said back in 2015. “And we have to act now.”

In 2018, planners proposed the idea of buying out dozens of homes exposed to flooding and retreating the community from the shoreline, a dramatic solution that could still be cheaper and more technically feasible than raising the existing dike by 2.5 metres and then being on the hook in perpetuity for costly erosion control. (The plan was dropped after community opposition.)

But the community isn’t even fully aware of the risks it faces. It only began the process of installing wave-monitoring stations earlier this year

Flood experts see a similar dynamic playing out over the entire region: a general awareness of the flooding dangers of climate change, but a striking lack of knowledge about specifics. A recent report from the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices explained that “government-produced flood maps in Canada are substantially more incomplete and outdated than those in the U.S.” When knowledge about which specific neighbourhoods and areas are most at risk becomes more specific, it could cause insurance rates to soar, which is already starting to happen south of the border. 

But the lack of detailed data for Vancouver could also mean that “property buyers—from individual homeowners to commercial real estate investors—are likely paying too much for homes and buildings whose value will drop when their flood risk becomes apparent,” it warns. 

In the city of Richmond, a short drive from Crescent Beach, VICE World News identified potential evidence of this when looking at the top 20 most expensive properties listed in mid-October 2021 and seeing if they are threatened by sea-level rise and annual flooding, according to Climate Central’s screening tool.

Using one set of optimistic sea-level-rise outcomes based on projections by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, VICE World News found that 15 of the 20 most expensive property listings—with a median value of $12 million—could experience annual flooding by 2030. 

But this isn’t just a problem for the wealthy. The housing market in Richmond, like the rest of Metro Vancouver, is out of whack with people’s incomes. Even though the median home price is roughly $1 million, the median income of Richmond’s residents—more than two-thirds of whom are Chinese, South Asian, and Filipino—was about $65,000 in 2015, slightly less than the national median income. As a community built on islands in the Fraser River Delta, virtually the entire municipality is exposed to flooding.

While wealthy homeowners and investors can potentially relocate if their houses become submerged, many lower-income families cannot—and could face a financial hit that could ruin them. 

“If we look at household balance sheets for Canada, there is a huge amount of wealth that is stored in property, and a huge amount of debt that is stored in property,” said Dylan Clark, a lead author on the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices report, which found that nearly 58,000 homes across British Columbia are at risk of regular flooding by mid-century even if the world achieves a best-case outcome on limiting greenhouse gases. “So that situation certainly adds some vulnerabilities.”

There are two ways the region’s systems of dikes could be breached: through a strong-than-usual storm that causes Pacific Ocean tides to surge, or by a deluge of rain along with melting mountain glaciers that overloads the Fraser River with water. Public spaces by the waterfront—parks, trails, and beaches—are also at risk. 

“Impacts from a major flood could be wide-ranging,” says a new report from the Fraser Basin Council, which estimated the potential damage of a catastrophic flood as high as $30 billion with potentially hundreds of thousands of people affected. “Impacts from a smaller flood could still be devastating for a smaller community, including many First Nations communities.”

According to the Fraser Basin Council, 26 First Nations across the region are vulnerable to major coastal flooding. Many of their 61 reserves are not currently protected by diking systems. “There’s a few different options that we’ve got to consider as a whole community,” said Ricky’s brother Norman Point, who is manager of Musqueam’s public works department and is helping develop Musqueam’s flood mitigation strategy. Norman lists some possible solutions they’re studying, including raising homes, building super dikes, adding fill material to block off the whole reserve, or even relocating the community. Any plans will be discussed with the chief and council and involve community engagement. 


These are strategies that other non-Indigenous Lower Mainland communities are also discussing, because although they “are situated behind flood protection infrastructure, all dikes pose a risk of failure during a major flood,” the Fraser Basin Council report says. 

The Fraser Basin Council didn’t respond to a media request from VICE News. 

There have been warnings like this for years, but city planners are still allowing buildings and crucial infrastructure to be placed in harm’s way—roughly 10 percent of building permits issued in the past three years are in areas at risk of flooding, Clark calculated. All in all, about 10,000 of the City of Vancouver’s roughly 107,000 buildings are located within a 100-year flood plain.

“A 100-year flood plain is riskier than it sounds,” Clark writes. “For example, a house in a 100-year flood plain with a 25-year mortgage has a 22 percent chance of flooding at least once during those 25 years.” 

The coming decades are likely to result in massive demographic changes. A planning organization known as Metro Vancouver predicts that 1 million people will move to the region within the next 30 years. These newcomers could be drawn by the area’s majestic Pacific coast scenery, temperate climate, progressive politics, and jobs in a burgeoning tech industry. They might also move here because of drought, extreme heat, devastating hurricanes, and other consequences of global temperature rise in their home countries.

“The Pacific Northwest will no doubt face significant impacts because of climate change, but compared to other regions in the world, it could very well be an incredibly attractive place for people to want to live,” Jonathan Coté, chair of the Metro Vancouver Regional Planning Committee and mayor of New Westminster, told VICE World News.

But as wildfires intensify across B.C.—such as the blaze that destroyed the entire town of Lytton earlier this year—more and more migrants could be arriving in Vancouver from only a few hundred kilometres away. “It’s not only going to be Afghanistan or Syria or Ethiopia or Yemen,” Yan said. “It’s going to be internally displaced people within the province.” 

A new planning document that Coté is working on called Metro 2050 says the region can begin to address all these challenges by discouraging new development in flood-prone areas and invest heavily in dikes and other protections where development already exists. He’s confident the region can construct enough low-cost housing clustered around public transit options to keep unaffordability from spinning further out of control. “We have to accelerate the work we’ve been doing to build more mixed-use, more dense communities,” he said. 

Others are unsure. The current development pattern is mostly based on building detached homes in far-flung suburban areas where people are forced to use cars, argues Seattle-based think tank the Sightline Institute. “If things play out as envisioned,” it recently argued, “the result will be even higher home prices and more exclusion in Vancouver.” 

If Yan is correct that COVID is just a preview of greater inequities to come, then what will happen to home prices when a million new people arrive at the same time that coastal flooding is potentially destroying existing homes and reducing the physical area that homes can be built on? 

“It’s a good question and it’s something that I’ve certainly spent time thinking about,” Clark said. “Quite simply, there’s a lack of information. We just don’t know.”

Other cities are already providing previews of what this looks like. Home prices in the Caribbean enclave of Little Haiti in Miami have increased by 19 percent in recent years as wealthier home buyers retreat from the coastline to higher-elevation areas. This is the case study that launched the concept of “climate gentrification,” the process by which neighbourhoods better protected from climate impacts become more desirable and expensive, often at the expense of lower-income residents. 

But versions of this social stratification will occur—or are already taking place—in almost any U.S. or Canadian city with significant exposure to flooding, said Matthew Eby, the founder and executive director of First Street Foundation. That organization recently released a report showing that up to one-quarter of U.S. infrastructure is exposed to climate flooding

The water that’s coming, he warned, will restructure entire urban environments along with the social divides within them. “Those people who are affluent move into other parts of town and push up the prices,” he said. 

How that could play out in Vancouver is still unclear. But Norman Point sees many risk factors already in place. The reserve is surrounded by multimillion-dollar homes at much higher elevations than his community. “And we’re here and we’ve always had these issues [with flooding],” he said. “It impacts everyone.” 


Geoff Dembicki & Francesca Fionda at Vice