The fight to limit global warming to easily tolerated levels is thus over. Analysts who have long worked on adaptation to climate change—finding ways to live with scarcer water, higher peak temperatures, higher sea levels and weather patterns at odds with those under which today’s settled patterns of farming developed—are starting to see their day in the uncomfortably hot sun. That such measures cannot protect everyone from all harm that climate change may bring does not mean that they should be ignored. On the contrary, they are sorely needed.In lock-step with this is the story this week from Norfolk, Virginia, where the rising sea level--a consequence of global warming melting polar ice--has led to flooding of neighborhoods near the water.
“We are the front lines of climate change,” said Jim Schultz, a science and technology writer who lives on Richmond Crescent near Ms. Peck. “No one who has a house here is a skeptic.”
Politics aside, the city of Norfolk is tackling the sea-rise problem head on. In August, the Public Works Department briefed the City Council on the seriousness of the situation, and Mayor Paul D. Fraim has acknowledged that if the sea continues rising, the city might actually have to create “retreat” zones.
Kristen Lentz, the acting director of public works, prefers to think of these contingency plans as new zoning opportunities.
“If we plan land use in a way that understands certain areas are prone to flooding,” Ms. Lentz said, “we can put parks in those areas. It would make the areas adjacent to the coast available to more people. It could be a win-win for the environment and community at large and makes smart use of our coastline.”
Ms. Lentz believes that if Norfolk can manage the flooding well, it will have a first-mover advantage and be able to market its expertise to other communities as they face similar problems.