Author and oceanographer John Englander, an expert on sea-level rise, addressed AIA-Florida today in Palm Beach.
His message? Don't panic, but take steps now.
For whatever reason -- subsidence, climate change -- the sea is going to rise, said Englander, author of "High Tide on Main Street." It cannot be stopped, even if we totally stopped burning dinosaurs (fossil fuels) today.
But it is a half-glass full opportunity for adaptation, he said. It does not mean our houses are going to be under water in 50 years (200, maybe, we just don't know), but we will have more flooding events and we can take steps to mitigate, including elevating houses and abandoning and waterproofing ground floors of high-rises.
In the photo with this story, look closely at the chart over his head. Note the red circle at the top right. That shows the current straight-up rise in atmospheric CO2 levels.
"It is time to consider our future," he said, "and our legacy. Understand the realities of what is ahead. There is risk, and opportunity. There is no certainty of when it is going to happen, but you design for it.
"Yes, it is a daunting challenge to cope with. Some risks, storms or fires, could happen next month and create a level of urgency, so we act now. Sea-level rise is the opposite. It is not if, but when. The heat is in the ocean. We have decades to begin to adapt, and shame on us if we do not do something.
"Sea levels will be 10 feet higher some day," Englander told the architects. "Consider that for long term-planning. It has never happened in human history. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before. Your predecessors never had to consider higher sea level.
"You don’t have to fix it tomorrow; you just have to start planning for 1-3 meters of SLR in next century or two. The longer we procrastinate, the harder it gets. The next road, tunnel or power plant, sewage plant, bridge, should be built high enough to handle 7 feet of sea-level rise."