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New York flooding will get ‘ten times’ worse as sea levels rise, threatening to sink the U.S. financial capital

February 16, 2022, 11:52 AM UTC

Sea levels across the U.S. eastern seaboard will rise faster in the next 30 years than they have in the past century, according to new projections from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), spelling disaster for the country’s financial capital.

“By 2050, moderate flooding—which is typically disruptive and damaging by today’s weather, sea level and infrastructure standards—is expected to occur more than 10 times as often as it does today,” says Nicole LeBoeuf, NOAA national ocean service director.

By 2050, NOAA says, sea levels along the East Coast will rise by up to 12 inches, increasing the frequency of coastal flooding tenfold. And by 2055, Manhattan will be confronting sea level rises of up to two feet.

“These numbers mean a change from a single [flooding] event every two to five years to multiple events each year,” LeBoeuf says. The island of Manhattan can hardly handle the flooding it already gets.

Last year, floods caused by Hurricane Ida swept New York City streets and submerged the coastal city’s subway lines. At least 14 people died, and the economic cost of the deluge is still being wrung out.

By some estimates, Ida’s impact caused up to $95 billion in damage across the U.S and roughly $24 billion in property damage in northeastern states, specifically. But those estimates don’t include the economic cost of lost productivity—the financial drain caused by shuttered shops and a waterlogged Wall Street.

To its credit, New York has been spending big to reduce the risk of flooding. Since the 1960s, New York City has spent $45 billion on expanding and improving its sewage infrastructure, which helps channel water away from the street above. But, during Ida, the city’s sewers swamped in seconds. After the deluge, local authorities estimated redesigning city drainage to cope with a storm like Ida will cost $100 billion.

That might seems like a big price tag but—as with all aspects of mitigating climate change—the cost of doing nothing would be much more. Ten Ida-scale floods a year would quickly cost New York more in damages than it could invest in prevention now.

Eamon Barrett
– eamon.barrett@fortune.com
@eamonbarrett49

CARBON COPY

Stick to Net Zero

International observers have warned the U.K. not to abandon its pursuit of a Net Zero economy after a group of Conservative lawmakers launched a misinformation campaign that links surging gas prices to the country’s green transition. The so-called Net Zero Scrutiny Group of MPs have called for an increase in fossil fuel production and to cut taxes on pollution. On Monday, Laurence Tubiana, the French diplomat who crafted the Paris Agreement, warned that the “it’s very important the U.K. keeps this direction of travel.” Guardian

Relocation, reparation

Rising sea levels are forcing a Native village on the coast of Washington state to relocate to higher ground. The Quinault Indian Nation village of Taholah borders the Pacific but is partly separated from the sea by a ten-foot-high wall. But the ocean frequently breaks through and buries the township, submerging the local courthouse, post office, and the village’s only store. Village planners want to move 660 of the town’s 3,000 residents half a mile uphill, but the relocation would cost $150 million. Some indigenous leaders say the federal government should pay for the resettlement. Bloomberg

Saudi hydrogen

By 2050 the global market for hydrogen could be worth $600 billion and the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, hopes it can become the world’s leading supplier of the green fuel in the future. The oil-rich Kingdom desperately needs to diversify. Last year, the Saudi government financed $149 billion of its budget, or 60%, with oil revenues. Now the government is building what will become the world’s largest hydrogen plant when it comes online in 2026. FT

Campaigners in the boardroom 

“We are now at this point where I can credibly say we want climate activists to join BCG,” Boston Consulting Group CEO Christoph Schweizer told the Financial Times in his first interview since taking the lead at BCG in October. According to Schweizer, BCG now earns more money advising on sustainability than it does from advising the oil and gas sector and the group is compiling a blacklist of polluting industries it refuses to work with, starting with thermal coal. FT

Banks and investors have given trillions to coal, despite many signing onto net zero pledges by Sophie Mellor

A Ukraine invasion could send gas prices over $5 in some areas by Chris Morris

We can’t invest in the energy transition if we stop investing in energy by Kewsong Lee

You’d think $90 oil and record electricity prices would mean more green investment. You’d be wrong by Sophie Mellor

Increased funding for research in women’s health issues could unleash staggering returns by Chloe E. Bird

Software is eating the world–and supercharging global inequality by Jim Kim

CLOSING NUMBER

65%

While New York is at increased risk of flooding, the American West is suffering from a decades-long “megadrought” that scientists say is the worst in 1,200 years. So-called megadroughts are periods of extreme dryness that last for more than two decades, and they do occur throughout history in the U.S. But the latest dry spell is more severe than previous runs. Nearly 65% of the American west is experiencing in severe drought according to the U.S. drought monitor.

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