A Crisis Right Now: San Francisco and Manila Face Rising Seas

The two sprawling metro areas — one rich, one poor — offer a vision of what could be a watery future for 600 million coastal residents worldwide.

Comments: 267

  1. Using public funds to bail out (no pun) coastal homes is misguided and narrow minded. Using 20th century, short-term remedies for problems that will gone on for the next century show a lack of vision. Adaptation is the keyword, not confrontation.

  2. @RonRich The rich people in San Francisco have alternatives (though destruction of a multi-million-dollar home is a horrible financial hit on a family). But the poor people of Manila have few other options. I've started wondering how many of the about-to-be-submerged Pacific islands and low-lying coastal areas will turn into collections of platforms, houses on stilts and houseboats, with fishing, fish farming and seaweed farming providing sustenance. Maybe the frequent storms at sea make that impossible?

  3. @RonRich But it gets worse the more CO2 we dump in the air. Today we dumped 2.57 million pounds of carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere....a second! A few minutes with a calculator that has a lot of places for digits will astound you.

  4. “According to scientific projections, the oceans stand to rise by one to four feet by the end of the century” From a conversation held a few months ago with Michael Mann and the most respected glaciologist in the US, Richard Alley. A few comments by Alley below. “If we don’t change our ways we’re expecting something like 3 feet of sea level rise in the next century, and it could be 2 and it could be 4 and it could be 20. The chance that we will cross thresholds that commit us to loss of big chunks of West Antarctica and huge sea level rise is real. So when you start doing “Well you’re not sure,” but there’s a chance of really bad things and the uncertainties are mostly on the bad side, could be a little better or a little worse or a lot worse, but we’ll be breaking things.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2yclMcDroQ&feature=youtu.be&t=47m4s

  5. @Erik Frederiksen So, "if we don't change our ways" sea levels will rise. Okay, just what changes do your recommend and what will those changes mean and when will it happen? That's the problem with all those so called global warming solutions. For example, we are told to eliminate carbon, but what will that change and when will the change happen?

  6. @Donald Smith What is driving sea level rise now is increased greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere. So we need to phase out fossil fuels and figure out how to remove a lot of carbon from the atmosphere. That won’t stop sea level rise because we’ve put a lot of heat content into the ocean which is destabilizing the ice sheets, but perhaps we can slow it.

  7. @Donald Smith As soon as we begin to tax carbon based on its deleterious effects. As we do many things we want to curtail. Don't underestimate out ability to work our way around taxes by coming up with new ways to do things without spewing greenhouse gasses.

  8. Please remember the inland coasts! Southwest Michigan is far from the only Great Lakes area suffering and this good piece suggests many of the issues are already upon us also.

  9. @Rottowner : A fairly long section of the seawall south of Navy Pier in Chicago has been damaged, and a section at the city limit in E. Rogers Park has entirely been destroyed. We live facing the lake near the Lincoln Park Zoo, and are glad we live on a high floor!

  10. @Rottowner why would inland lakes levels rise? I though the seas' rises were due to melting glaciers at the poles.

  11. @dbezerkeley: i'd suspect increased rains in the midwest are causing increased runoff into the lakes. rising rivers in the area are certainly no joke either... they cannot drain lakes when they are already flooded.

  12. Friends recently purchased an apartment in a high-rise near the ballpark in San Francisco. The building is a handful of feet from the Bay. They've assumed, and rightly, I believe, that San Francisco is more than wealthy enough that many decades from now their grandchildren will also be using the unit as a pied-à-terre. As this piece explains all too well, the seaside residents of Pacifica are going to live through an entirely different story.

  13. @BayArea101 - Your friends and I are neighbors. We live one block in from the bay, on the fifth floor of a high-rise. We joke that it'll be like Venice, we'll just bring a little boat and tie it to our deck.

  14. @BayArea101 That building sits on in-fill that is highly susceptible to earthquake damage, in addition to risk of rising waters. Your friends seem to have more money than sense. Hopefully their children will be smarter.

  15. @Kent Says the seismic engineering expert from....Vermont.

  16. To some extent beaches and wetlands can adjust to sea level rise. But when seawalls are built they are blocked from moving inland. Armoring the coast is a big mistake. Here in Santa Cruz California you can see how beaches, which are vital to the tourist industry, are being destroyed in order to protect the homes above. Another example of the few being favored over the many.

  17. @JohnP Yeah, vote Bernie Sanders. Bernie Sanders will take care of the few, the 1% that owns the 99% of the beaches

  18. @JohnP I have been observing the exact same erosion damage on Lake Michigan for over 30 years. Jetties, seawalls.rip rap, groins, and rock revetments all accelerate the scouring action of wind and current . A natural beach rebuilds itself after the heavy duty conditions subside.

  19. Pacifica's mayor is "not in favor of managed retreat"? What, then, is she in favor of? Leaving people in place until their homes are destroyed? Let's be serious about this. Every coastal city in the world is going to be affected to greater or lesser degree by climate change and the rise in sea level. Waiting until it's already happened is foolish. Each and every city, county, state, and national government that has coastline needs to start NOW to relocate people, build new infrastructure as needed, and prepare for the worst. If the worst doesn't happen, that's great--but it's better to disrupt some folks and spend some money than have crises at the last minute because we pretended everything was going to be okay. It's not.

  20. @KristenB Exactly my sentiments. We all need managed something - like immigration, inequality, climate change. Please somebody - put managed policies on the front burner!

  21. @renee You meant Bernie, Senator Bernie Sanders 2020, Hallelujah!

  22. Whatever we try to do to fix this cataclysmic problem will be too little and too late .

  23. @inter nos Exactly how I feel.

  24. Im sorry but right this instant we have a sitting president that is simply making matters worse in everyway possible.... its all about him. If only mar a lago and his other beach properties were threatened then maybe just maybe some attention might be given to the situation.

  25. @Robert Perez Nah. He would just use some of his "wall" money to build a gigantic seawall around Mar-A-Lago.

  26. We have a Sociopath, as President of our Country, who promotes the use of coal, deregulates our environmental laws and withdraws from socially responsible climate treaties. The electric,gas,air and water energy technology already exists to solve most of our climate related problems. In addition we must plant more trees and save the Amazon. We can and will change our environmental policies if people vote for responsible federally elected officials who believe in Science and Ecology. We must defeat the party of corrupt, narrow-minded and self-serving politicians.

  27. @Stanley Mann And I am sure YOU use your share of coal everyday. None of you have changed your lifestyle to combat this fraudulent crisis. Its a money grab, nothing more.

  28. @Stanley Mann, Then why did YOU vote for him?

  29. I'm a little inland and have been looking for coastal property for several years. A blessing in disguise?

  30. @Dave Bizarro did a cartoon with that theme some years ago. As I recall the caption said, "We planned to retire in 30 years and buy a beachfront property. Then we realized that in 30 years, this house will BE a beachfront property."

  31. It is going to happen and people has to adapt. No one beat the climate, weather or planet in known history.

  32. And yet voters incapable of understanding climate science are fooled by fossil fuel backed candidates into believing 'hoaxes'. A civilization that caters and provides ideological succor to its most ignorant and stops solving its problems, is on a clock. So hard to fathom what has become of conservatism given all its delusions and conspiracies. If you really wanted to conserve your way of life, you would address climate change, because you are going to lose it at +6 degrees of heating.

  33. The problems for the poor cities are one thing, but I can't feel too bad for the beachfront property owners in the U.S. If the oceanfront homes in the Hamptons fall into the sea, good riddance. We shouldn't be spending tax dollars for them.

  34. The five mass extinctions should teach us that life does not change climate. Climate changes life.

  35. @Cosby Actually, it works both ways. Life changes climate, climate changes life.

  36. @Cosby Except for life that burns fossil fuel carbon. We did this one and it will surely change our way of life.

  37. I saw Parasite just a couple of days ago. The storm that flooded the Kim's apartment with sewage water was horrific, difficult to watch but a film, not reality. I then read a few reviews that pointed out the director's concern with climate change and I thought "OK I get it." But after reading this article and seeing its videos and pictures, I felt I was living through a sequel of Parasite, albeit one squarely real. Terribly depressing.

  38. Each day, Trump and his Republicans act to make our planet less & less inhabitable for our children and grandchildren around the world. The window of opportunity to effectively mitigate Climate Change is rapidly disappearing. The remaining 2020 Democratic Candidates will try to cut & paste portions of Governor Jay Inslee’s comprehensive & actionable Climate Change Mitigation Plan. We must go with the Real Deal. Just wringing our hands won’t get the job done. The winning Democratic Party 2020 Ticket: President Warren (build a green economy) + Vice President Inslee (save a blue planet)! W+IN 2020! +++++++++++++++ FYI: Here’s an excellent article by David Roberts of Vox which explains Governor Inslee’s Climate Change Mitigation Plan: https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2019/7/30/20731958/jay-inslee-for-president-climate-change-justice-plan-green-new-deal

  39. I doubt that those homes on the rapidly eroding Pacifica bluff are worth $1 million. A buyer would be a fool to pay that much.

  40. @ElleninCA There are few sales. newspapers have covered their plight for 50 years.

  41. Stop building so close to the sea, how many time are we going to bail out the second homeowners on the jersey shore.

  42. @Sue Point is that homes that were not next to the sea now are, due to eroding beaches. Don't blame people for having built decades ago.

  43. While I have sympathy for the people of the Philippines, I have zero pity for multimillionaires sitting in mansions on the San Fran coast. You have the money to move, so move. I'm sure you like the sea views, but the sea cares nothing for your preferences. I'd love to live in Gloucester, MA, but I'm looking for a house about 30 miles inland because I've got the common sense to realize that, before I'm gone, Gloucester will be under water. Reality doesn't care about your wants. Get used to the fact now, it's not going to change later.

  44. @Alexandra While I understand the sentiment, Pacifica is not wealthy like San Francisco. The author does a disservice by alluding to wealth by describing Pacifica homes as worth $1M (which is essentially the average home price in the Bay Area). These homes may be worth that much after the recent run-up in property values, but most owners bought these places when Pacifica was a quiet commuter town. Lots of teachers, cops, government workers. Most can't afford to leave, or rather, to leave probably means leaving the state because they won't be able to afford to buy in Pacifica or most of the greater Bay Area. As for me, I agree with you, I would never buy a bluff top home.

  45. @AJF : Most teachers, cops and government workers would be delighted to own a home worth 1+ million. They can sell it and move somewhere else. The economy is booming in many parts of the country, and there's a shortage of middle-class workers like these. The biggest issue is that in many places, they can't afford the price of local houses on local wages. But cash in on their pricey waterfront property and they could easily buy a good-quality home in places where their skills are needed.

  46. @Rose: Except in a city like Pacifica, no one is buying those million dollar homes. Anything near the water or prone to flooding is only valuable on paper. Those people are truly stuck and it's too bad. It would be the rare person buying a home in Pacifica 30 years ago who would have foreseen this outcome. Also, those apartments on the bluff, generally house people who can't afford a home.

  47. On the bright side, Mar a Lago will also be under water soon … along with its Climate Denier Owner.

  48. @Joe Miksis This is the most optimistic comment I heard on this topic. Alas, the ocean will not come soon enough to devour Mar a Lago. . Seriously though, kudos to the writers and NYT for publishing such a thoughtful piece - rich or poor, we are just tiny pygmies in front of mighty nature. As one person commented here :this is all man made- our irresponsible carbon creation, electing anti-science leaders like the current bozo, building living communities not respecting nature etc. There is still time to clean up. Humans can win using science, responsibility, knowledge and innovation.

  49. @Jyoti You are an optimist. Good for you. I am a realist and I gave up awhile ago. Of course, that does not mean we cannot party till the end comes!

  50. Lake Michigan is also causing huge problems for home owners in Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. Home ownwers being forced to install sea walls and move homes

  51. @Bill Hannon But that water has a path downhill.

  52. @Bill Hannon a prominent person in Michigan just claimed that if the state did not start helping lakefront homeowners that they would stop contributing to their political parties. I can’t wait to see how this works out as a strategy for the aggrieved residents.

  53. I love the shore. These people are sooo lucky to live near it.

  54. @Brad Steele Me too. Particularly like the part about the surfer dude. He can look out his window and see the giant waves roll in!

  55. And to think this article featured only poor people in Manila and affluent people in San Francisco. It is stunning to consider all the shorelines of Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, South, Central, and North America, and the many islands in the world where billions of people are massed in eroding, submerging communities. Where will they all go in a world where we’re adding 220,000 humans to the earth every day, and affordable housing is in decline relative to need globally? (It was striking that most of the Manila pictures contained children.) The cost of sea walls and other “defenses” to maintain existing coastal infrastructure is so prohibitively astronomical that it is hardly likely to be a pragmatic “solution” except temporarily in affluent societies. But without reducing greenhouse gases, the oceans will prevail, and we’re all the worse for it.

  56. @Jay : Exactly! And people think it's somehow inappropriate to suggest that population growth is part of the problem -- and that a gradual population decline is an essential part of the solution. We're going to have less land over time. Where are all these people going to go?

  57. So much fretting, and yet so many still can't even tackle the low-hanging fruit. -- Stop flying for vacation/travel/experience. Just stop. -- Stop taking cruise ships. Like flying, they are terrible emitters of carbon AND they are incubators of disease. -- Eat less meat -- and buy pasture-raised meats whenever possible. -- Vote for someone that believes that climate change is real, problematic, and caused by humans. I get that people need to get to work, and right now that requires a car for some people. I get that people need to heat their homes and are reliant on the fossil-fuel heating systems they can't afford to replace. I get that people want to visit their far-flung families sometimes, and a plane may be the only way to do it. But all of the above are examples of low-hanging fruit that many people still are unwilling to tackle.

  58. @Rose: Even if everyone in the world does everything you say, starting tomorrow, that still won't be enough to stave off the climate crisis. We need systemic, government-sponsored changes on a global scale. Not eating red meat and not going on vacation ain't gonna cut it.

  59. @Lisa Simeone : Not sufficient, but still necessary. I worry that when people are unwilling to tackle even the low-hanging fruit, how will they ever go for the mass systemic change we need. And no one said anything about not going on vacation or not eating red meat. Rather, not FLYING to go on vacation, eating LESS meat, and eating the pasture-raised meats that, when raised properly, help sequester carbon in the soil rather than be a source of net greenhouse gas emissions.

  60. @Rose yes to all that!! Yet regulations on industry are essential. And it doesn’t help if the meat is pasture raised. Animal agriculture is destroying our planet on every level.. deforestation, fresh water & land use for feed, methane gas, poisoning our waterways causing massive algae blooms, etc. Not to mention the potential (current?) pandemic threat & horrific abuse hidden behind closed doors most people aren’t even willing to see but go on endorsing with every dollar. Go Vegan. It’s the best thing any individual can do for our shared planet.

  61. Anybody with sense knows that houses built on cliffs above the unPacific in CA will end up in the water. The risk takers who build on cliffs and beaches should not be bailed out by the taxpayers, same with people who build in fire prone areas. Let them buy insurance and deal with disasters themselves. As for the many of us who live on the flood plains of the LA and San Gabriel Rivers, we hope the government will bail us out when the 500 or 1000 year flood comes.

  62. @Hector Great sense of irony!

  63. Thanks for the great reporting on this crisis we have created.

  64. There is a BIG difference between coastal erosion (picture of Pacifica) and a rising sea level (downtown SF), but the alarmist author lumps them together as if they are caused by the same thing. People who choose to live at the edge of a cliff along the California coast (great view, clean air) may need to eventually move. This happens in Southern California too. Nothing new here. If sea level rises another 8 inches during the next hundred years, maybe a seawall will be necessary in SF and other parts of the Bay Area. But we have lots of time to plan since it isn't going to happen during the lifetime of most of your readers.

  65. @John Dal Pino alertness to the threat isn't the same as being an alarmist. Consider the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy which among other things flooded NYC's lower Manhattan subways and wrecked great swaths of the Jersey coast. It's not alarmist to think ahead to consider an array of possible scenarios that need prudent addressing. Seawalls in NYC will be necessary and extremely difficult to implement. Engineering solutions (there will need to be more than one) around the New York Bight is going to be complex. The Hudson River system surrounding Manhattan Island and the substantial tidal action all around the harbor estuary are formidable challenges--today. A decade hence they may be much worse. Moreover as hurricane seasons grow longer and less predictable, good luck with planning around the next series of catastrophic storms.

  66. @John Dal Pino “Another 8 inches” The rate of acceleration of ice sheet mass loss is 44Gt/y2 now. That’s 78cm of sea level rise from that source by 2100. Throw in mountain glaciers and thermal expansion, 20-30cm, and you get around a meter that we are on pace for. But with a warming world will that rate remain the same? Glaciologists are worried that it could increase substantially when the West Antarctic Ice Sheet starts to let go. From the Penn State scientist Michael Mann recently: “Increasingly, the science suggests that many of the impacts are occurring earlier and with greater amplitude than was predicted," Mann said, after considering new research since the milestone of the IPCC's Fifth Assessment, which served as the scientific basis for the Paris Agreement. "We have literally, in the space of a year, doubled our assessment of the potential sea level rise we could see by the end of this century. That is simply remarkable. And it is sobering," he said. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26122017/climate-change-science-2017-year-review-evidence-impact-faster-more-extreme

  67. @Erik Frederiksen So make the wall a little taller.

  68. Why did the journalist and photographer have to travel (presumably by flying) to Manila and San Francisco? Ironic and totally unnecessary. I work in radio production for BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle and PRI world. We would have hired a local stringer in SF and Manila at a fraction of the cost financially and in carbon. The same effect could have been achieved.

  69. @James Though I value that perspective, I also think a journalist who has experienced two places personally is able to contrast and write about them them differently from one a journalist who has only heard about and seen one of those places through someone else's perspective. Co-written articles, and being mindful of the resources we use in production is important, but so is the idea of voice and experience in writing.

  70. @James More fun to make a site visit?

  71. Wealthy San Francisco? Ocean Beach is comfortable but not all that wealthy. The houses (including ours, two blocks from the beach) were built in the late 1930s and 1940s, when workers streamed into the city to work in defense plants. They were houses for working and middle-class families. For the most part, they still are, although blue-collar workers are probably fewer, because like other cities, San Francisco has lost manufacturing. Still, my neighbors include people working in the health industry (hospitals), young tech families with children, retirees (some still living in family homes built 60-70 years ago), etc. Demographically, these neighborhoods are Asian, Latino, and Caucasian. Ocean Beach residents have attended meetings on sea rise and planned solutions, including managed retreat over the next 50 years. Amazingly, municipalities continue to allow influential developers in the Bay Area to build on endangered coasts and wetlands. So I ask that The Times and readers be a bit more careful about your narrative.

  72. @Cathy People in San Francisco are wealthy compared to those in Manila

  73. @Cathy You realize that San Francisco is one of the wealthiest cities in the world, right? And especially when compared with Manilla, which is what this article is doing.

  74. @Cathy Did you even read the part of the article about Manila? If you own a house in Pacifica, you're wealthy.

  75. The severe coastal erosion in California has been happening for eons. If climate change concerns were driving real estate investment and banking/insurance underwriting decisions, we would see prices for beachfront property (on both coasts, including low lying Florida) plummeting now...but we don’t.

  76. @Erik Frederiksen The areas cited in that study are all barrier island communities, which are naturally exposed to tidal flooding, as they are primarily made of sand and shift over time...and it has nothing to do with coastal erosion in California.

  77. Here’ s a head in the sand for you: developers in Portland, ME, are trying to get the city to let them build a story taller in the valuable Old Port, where water is already drowning the streets during King Tides, in exchange for them putting their utilities on the ground floor instead of in the cellars. Woe betide the poor pedestrians and vehicles who might provide customers for these view grabbing towers (and view grabbing is the real attraction since insurance companies will take care of the flooding problem in those buildings).

  78. I fear our future has been foretold by the last few lines of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", by T.S.Eliot, which I misquote here: "In my flannel trousers, upon the beach I heard mermaids singing, each to each. But on their wave-ride out to sea I do not think they sing to me. Through wind-swept water, white on black, And hair-combed waves, all blown back, Nereids sparkle like a crown, Wreathed with seaweed red and brown, Till human voices wake us, and we drown."

  79. @John Kell “This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but with a whimper.”

  80. The root of climate change is population growth. 7 billion people use a lot more pollutants than 100 million people. They also convert natural buffers into farmland and housing. Even if we cut CO2 emissions down to zero, there will be way more people than this planet can afford. I have no suggestions on handling this "original sin," but not discussing it is insane.

  81. @Mel Hauser Population growth has long been used to place the bulk of the blame on vulnerable communities and countries. It's a scapegoat for a larger issue, one that's fueled by the greed of corporations and how excessively they exploit the environment. The goal of a business is to make a profit by any means necessary; the goal of ordinary people around the world is to live. Not to mention that population growth is already fueled by a lack of resources, a lack of stability, high mortality rates, and a lack of access to family planning and equal rights for women. This "original sin" has been talked about extensively. We don't need to belabor the discussion any further and place blame on the most vulnerable people on this Earth.

  82. @Ryan Wow--you're still avoiding the problem. Why we got to this point is interesting--but what to do in the future is imperative, How can we at least halt the growth of the world's population. Please make suggestions--it's not only about economics.

  83. @Mel Hauser That is part of my response. Focus on the bigger issues than just the simple fact that people are having children. Provide health care to lower mortality rates; provide extensive reproductive choices for women everywhere; boost education and wages; regulate pollutants and emissions; incentivize new ways to grow food; revolutionize the electricity grid, etc etc. The point is, realistically, we'll never be able to halt population growth completely. But if you tackle inequities and climate change at the root of many of the issues I mentioned above, lower pop. growth rates will follow.

  84. Interesting how none of the stories actually concern direct victims of climate change. Manila is sinking - like Jakarta - because of aggressive pumping of water out of the aquifer upon which the city sits (the neighborhood described in the article would be in trouble even if global sea levels were falling); the coastline in SF has been eroding for thousands of years (so the real culprit were the greedy home developers who put the buildings where they now stand) ; the Embarcadero is reclaimed land (ie land that used to be under water). And yet it is all spun to make it seems as though the main culprit is human-induced climate change?

  85. @David G maybe all these physical processes would be happening anyway, however, YOU GLOSS OVER the critical factor- at what rate? would Manilla be sinking 1/8 inch per decade without global warming? would San Francisco beachfront be eroding at 1/8" per decade without global warming? It is the ACCELERATED AND EXTREME RATE of these changes that is the big problem, accelerated by global warming.

  86. @David G You forgot to mention that in addition we have accelerating global mean sea level rise.

  87. @David G well this is induced by human activity. May God have mercy on our souls.

  88. Just one sentence in the article, "sea levels have risen by as much as 5 to 7 centimeters a year, or double the global average." suggests the writer did not do their homework or worse, is misstating facts to serve a political goal. The global average rise of sea level is 3 mm (0.3 cm) a year; therefore what happens in Manila is 20 times faster than average and has nothing to do with global warming but everything with sinking ground. This is not to say the problem does not exist, but these little arithmetic "errors" made to make a point sabotage the effort to fight climate change and give fodder to climate deniers.

  89. @Tom NOAA has tables that report changes in sea level. If you read the footnotes, they do not distinguish between actual changes in sea level, although they are capable of doing so, and land subsidence. They report relative changes in "sea level." The scientifically illiterate reporters don't win praise or prizes in journalism by reporting the complexity of the situation nor of the location specific issues. When people like you adopt the false narrative of the globalists, that anyone who does not accept the stupid policy recommendations of politicians supposedly informed by the non scientific "scientific consensus" is a "climate denier," you eliminate any possibility of a rational discourse and finding reasonable policy determinations.

  90. As tropical cyclones increase in power and ride in on higher sea levels the worst wouldn't be a major city being wiped out by a strong storm. The worst would be if we spent billions of dollars on a coastal defense, then build a lot of expensive infrastructure behind it, under the mistaken impression that we can hold back the ocean. “Today, we’re struggling with 3 millimeters [0.1 inch] per year [of sea level rise],” says Robert DeConto at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, co-author of one of the more sobering new studies. “We’re talking about centimeters per year. That’s really tough. At that point your engineering can’t keep up; you’re down to demolition and rebuilding.” http://e360.yale.edu/feature/abrupt_sea_level_rise_realistic_greenland_antarctica/2990/

  91. @Erik Frederiksen There isn't a lot of evidence that tropical storms are increasing in frequency or severity. The cost of damage has been immense, but that is because the buildings are so much more expensive and there are so many more houses, building and other infrastructure than in the past. Add to that the fact that the land in many coastal areas is subsiding and eroding, and only the foolish would remain rather than moving to higher ground.

  92. Tropical cyclones derive their strength from warm water and much of the resulting damage is due to storm surge. Add heat to the system and a higher base sea level and you get more destructive storms. I don’t think one can say that global warming caused Hurricane Sandy, but ocean temperatures were several degrees above normal for both Sandy and typhoon Haiyan and sea levels were higher than before the Industrial Revolution, so global warming exacerbated the storms. The extra foot or so of sea level rise on the US East Coast caused Hurricane Sandy to flood an additional 25 square miles. (one foot of sea level rise, averaged globally moves the shoreline inland 300 feet, it’s worse in places like S Florida and Bangladesh). Another interesting thing about Sandy. Changes in the jet stream, perhaps due to Arctic ice decline, allowed Sandy to follow an unusual, and unusually damaging course; directly into land with the dangerous semi-circle of the storm piling water ashore. As if that weren’t enough, these systems are slowing down and holding more moisture so we’re seeing unusually large amounts of rain in storms like Harvey in Houston and Florence in the Carolinas. Katrina and Sandy didn’t spur us to action and Katrina killed 1,836 people. If we wait to act until a category 6 hurricane plows through NYC or Miami on top of 1-2m of sea level rise it will be a little late.

  93. If only we had 50-100 years!! Not to be Debbi Downer but in South Florida sea level rise is affecting us here and now. “Sunny Day Floods” and storm surge flooding is a regular occurrence. Parts of Key Largo & Big Pine in the Florida Keys have been flooded for a month. Beaches are disappearing faster than they can put them back in, and sea algae has overrun our beaches. Did no one notice that the Bahamas were hit with a surge 24ft high that lasted for days? Or how about the 64 degrees in the Artic in January? Good grief. Look up “meltwater pulses”, educate yourself, do what you can. But please stop talking about this like it’s a future problem. This isn’t your kids or grandkids problem (though they will suffer the brunt of it). People are comforted by thinking they have got until the end of the century. They don’t. We don’t. The future is now.

  94. @Jennifer The sunny day flooding in Miami is not the result of rising sea levels. It is the result of land subsidence. Land built on filled in marshlands sinks even faster than land further inland. Miami is suffering from self inflicted injuries and yet new construction continues and the population is growing. If you want to protect your wealth for for your children and grandchildren, do not invest your wealth in land that is sinking.

  95. @ebmem You kind of missed the point, but nice try.

  96. @ebmem Sources?

  97. The complexities of “managed retreat” are due solely to a persistent attachment to places doomed to extinction in their ability to support human living. The choices are really quite narrow and that even the simplest of creatures can readily solve: move to higher ground! If you cannot “manage” to figure that out, Mother Nature will inexorably, persistently, irrevocably and without feeling or remorse “manage” it for you.

  98. @math365 According to https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/world-population-by-year/, the world population 7,000 years ago was about 5 million people. Wikipedia cites sources that put the word population in that era between 1 and 10 million people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_population_estimates). Today there are more than 7.75 billion people. It does not matter one iota if climate change is cyclical, or if the oceans have risen and fallen before, or if our planet has warmed and cooled through the centuries. Never in the history of the planet has any of those things taken place while close to 8 billion human lives have been involved. It is mind boggling that I have not seen anything written by anyone who has provided some counterpoint to the calamity that is climate change, whatever their stripes (neither a skeptic nor a denier, but...), that takes this fact into consideration.

  99. Thanks for this piece of excellent journalism.

  100. I think I'll watch WaterWorld after all!

  101. How can a house be "worth" a million dollars if it is so precariously perched and has potential to be red tagged for demolition? That seems to me like those factors would cause the house to depreciate...is the market in the Bay Area accurately reflecting future realities?

  102. @Brandon The people who bought the house for $50,000 forty years ago expect someone [taxpayers] to give them the $1 million the house would be worth if it weren't about to be red tagged. If they could find someone new to the region to buy the house for $1 million, they'd be happy to stiff the newcomer. As it stands, with no greater fool available to sell the house to, they're lobbying for SUV drivers in Tennessee to pony up federal funds so they can retain their wealth. It seems unbelievable that banks are lending money on houses at risk, which is one of the few protections preventing the greater fool from being exploited.

  103. The best part? All those who profited from climate change denial won't have to pay a single penny of the billions and billions in tax dollars that are going to be needed to offset it.

  104. @Chicago Guy How about if Al Gore ponies up the $200 million in profit he has gained from selling his religion while not advocating in favor of nuclear energy? The taxpayers are not going to pay the owner of a house being red tagged $1 million. Whether the owner of the house is a true believer or a sceptic about global warming, he's going to absorb the loss.

  105. @ebmem why don’t you ask the former residents of Fukushima how much they appreciate the benefits of nuclear power.

  106. That first fly-over of San Francisco near the top of the article is stunning. Right at the end of the clip, it shows homes that are only a few feet from the edge of a cliff. How can anyone live in those homes, knowing the next big storm could send them and their house crashing into the sea? I also noticed how many of the homes are manufactured homes and look pretty new. It is beyond nuts to place a manufactured home near the edge of a cliff.

  107. @JenD The manufactured homes can be moved. The older homes can't. I lived in a couple of buildings that were the last ones before the beach in SF and Daly City. It was very special and for a while, the storms exhilarating.

  108. It will be the global poor and the coastal American liberals who will pay the most heavy price for climate change. Since both these groups are not exactly beloved by conservatives, one can understand why they are not too bothered by climate change.

  109. @A Cynic Mar-A-Lago will be underwater, as will most of Florida. The wealthy, who can afford alternatives, just don't care.

  110. @A Cynic Nice try but wrong. Florida is the highest risk state (most properties subject to sea level rise). Southern Texas is also high risk. The southern states are also prone to hurricanes and tidal flooding. These are your buddies so please show some compassion.

  111. @A Cynic "It will be the global poor..." San Francisco is not inhabited by the global poor. Neither is Obama poor, who bought a mansion on Martha's Vineyard. The owners of coastal property are the globally very rich. The global poor are hurt by making gas, power and heating more expensive.

  112. The sea doesn't care if you are rich or poor. The only thing that matters now is what elevation will be high enough when it stops rising.

  113. @RDR -Yep, and not just coastal properties are in danger. Rising sea levels also affect inland waterways that are connected to the coasts in any way. The water goes wherever it can flow. Many years ago I made a rule that any house I bought had to be a minimum of 30 feet above sea level. In recent years I raised my minimum to 100 feet above sea level AND 50 feet above the highest waterway in my area. But is that enough? It still won’t protect the quality of life of life if several of the nearby creeks, rivers, reservoirs, etc flood over roads and all the lower lying neighborhoods. But it lets me sleep a little better for now. Move out of the flood plains folks!

  114. @bebar —There have been a lot of changes in Pacifica in the 30 years I’ve lived here. One among many is that when I moved here, the Federal Govt would not sell us Flood Insurance because we weren’t in the flood zone. Now and unfortunately, we do qualify to buy it.

  115. Waterfront property owners bring to mind the the strange optimism and wisdom of the man who falls from atop a 20 story building and on the way down tells himself; "So far, so good."

  116. Stunning journalism Messrs Sengupta and Lee. And at the same time sobering. This kind of reporting will win you gentleman the Pulitzer. Humanity reached the point of no return decades ago. We are now into a period in human history I believe called the Sixth Extinction. And all because of avarice, carelessness and total disregard for the natural world.

  117. @Jean W. Griffith And don't forget massive overpopulation.

  118. Thank you, NYT, for the photos/graphics which make important articles such as this one much more "readable" and understandable. I confess I might well not have read this if it was presented as just a long article with a few photos.

  119. I'm sure from the shanties of Manila all their thoughts and prayers are for those in Pacifica after seeing pictures of all those nice homes at risk.

  120. Just how much property tax is Pacifica collecting on these million dollar houses anyway? Probably a pittance if they bough that long ago with Prop 13. They should be ashamed of themselves for having new comers' property taxes pay for their sea wall. Who by the way, couldn't afford these houses to begin with.

  121. Excellent story, though FYI: The former industrial neighborhood in San Francisco that's being redeveloped surrounds Mission Creek, but is called Mission Bay.

  122. Mission Bay is a new term, likely coined by realtors. This area was formerly known as SOMA. I lived there for many years. I liked it better when it was a decrepit industrial neighborhood.

  123. @Gmuon Agreed. I loved SOMA when I lived in North Beach 30 years ago - it was a great place to escape the Bridge & Tunnel People.

  124. @Gmuon Spoken like a true San Franciscan!

  125. I have a friend with a beach condo in Florida. You can walk out the back door and dip your toes in the Atlantic in two minutes. Ha~!

  126. Beautifully presented. Thanks NYT

  127. Ok, the levels of water are rising. So too, the amount of energy in the atmosphere is rising. From this knowledge one can estimate an "energy reach", which is the erosive power of the water when an atypical storm arrives. Add to that the duration. Put another way, if you sand soft wood with coarse grit paper for a long time you have no wood left. For those in Pacifica CA, watch your insurance premiums. And sell while the market still offers buyers.

  128. It is interesting neither of these 2 cities were rated as most at risk. They are not in the top ten.

  129. For the fourth straight year, in his budget, President Donald Trump has proposed sizable reductions in federal research spending. The president wants deep cuts to the National Science Foundation (NSF), and science programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) and NASA. Trump supporters can say that "Climate Change is a hoax," but they also need to remember that climate change will not just effect people of color. America needs to put the financial resources towards real science and finding solutions to this looming problem.

  130. @Son Of Liberty The problem with this administration is the word "science".

  131. I used to live in San Francisco. I loved it, it was hard to leave. But it just didn't make sense to _invest_ in the Bay Area (for a bunch of sustainability reasons). I left 12 years ago and I am so much happier with my affordable home that allows me to live a sustainable life, without sacrifices. I don't understand why more people don't seek out the affordable places... or why more employers don't encourage remote work.

  132. @Enjoy The Kitchen It's a puzzle, I know. People here will put up with just about anything to live in SF or the Bay Area...We must look crazy to the rest of the country, but the weather, the people, the scenery, the city life, and the present economy make it a very hard place to leave. It's cheaper--sometimes much cheaper--elsewhere, but it isn't San Francisco.

  133. @Enjoy The Kitchen Yes, remote work is one answer. My husband and I are lawyers. Instead of driving all over Northern California to attend court hearings, we're allowed to appear by phone (such an outdated technology). Online conferencing can be more widely used, and I've been in a recent deposition where my client appeared by Zoom from his home in Idaho. We have the technology - let's use it! Too many people in California commute singly in cars. Workplaces need to adapt.

  134. Excellent piece of journalism. And, beautifully presented. Kudos to the authors!

  135. This article is nicely done and shows the future of human habitation patterns. Geologists know the oceans were 200 feet higher in the past. On the East coast of the USA, early villages are under 200 feet of water right now. Today's port cities and where they are now because they are the places where the ocean meats the land at this point in time. In the future, ports will be further inland and will we humans, who will simply move to somewhat higher ground.

  136. @George Nope. Not how this is going. The oceans won't drop again for hundreds of thousands of years. You see George, we (humans) have pumped billions of tons of green house gases into the atmosphere. Before we started burning massive amounts of fossil fuel, cutting down forests and causing desertification through grazing and agriculture it took MASSIVE natural disasters or hundreds of thousands to millions of years for the same changes to take place.

  137. wow, emotionally powerful images. well done presenting the issues.

  138. How is a wall going to withstand the power of pounding waves, wind, and erosion - not just today, but for the next several decades. The seas shall continue to rise . . .

  139. Using Manila and SF as the two examples of sea-level challenges to housing is about as appropriate as using them to illustrate a lack of quality affordable housing. The contrast couldn't be greater. Manila shows desperately poor people with enormous impact from climate change that threatens their lives and well-being. In SF, they had to leave town and find that handful of properties in Pacifica on the bluffs that would be worth millions but for the erosion discount. One stretch of cliff is being eroded due to the specific geography in the area. A small sliver of Pacifica will slowly disappear, and that has been a known issue for decades. The local controversy is over how much to slow it down. SF homeowners are not facing a similar problem. In fact, based on the maps released in a recent study on the issue, there might not be a single home within the City & County of SF facing a threat from rising seas within the next few generations (eventually part of the Marina district would be hit). The rise is certainly happening. But it looks like the main issue will be the airport, which has revenues to back infrastructure needs. Across the Bay Area it's the relatively small number of homes built close to sea level. An upside of the restricted development is that most of CA lacks the structures built to waterline, which are so common across the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast. It's no Manila.

  140. It's not a matter of rich versus poor. One group isn't necessarily better than the other at treading water.

  141. My Northern California town officials just overturned the planners to allow a big development in our flood plain. The builders always win.

  142. @Pipilo As long as the government does not have to bail them out when they are underwater, it is their risk. Builders here on Maui now have to file an EIS that includes an analysis of sea level rise to show that sea level rise will not impact the finished building.

  143. @Pipilo Unfortunately, you are right re "the builders always win." I was born and raised in San Francisco not far from Ocean Beach; we owned our first home in Pacifica. As a matter of fact, when we were first married we lived in one of the Pacifica apartment buildings overlooking the ocean. That complex is now for the most part condemned because of erosion of the cliffs causing the very foundations of structures to collapse. We now are in Sonoma County where enough of our city council and board of supervisors are in the back pockets of our developers. Not only rising waters, but also fires caused by global warming are constant threats. Yet, the very area which was almost 100% devastated during the Tubb's Fire, called Fountaingrove, is now dotted with McMansions on small lots. The expanded Bay Area is supposed to be Blue and liberal. Let us not fool ourselves. Greed is the bottom line even here.

  144. The part about SF is only half right. The increased flooding near the Embarcadero's is mostly right, a few inches of ocean rise combined with the tides and/or a storm surge has made that problem significantly worse. Of course, its also because the area is also sinking slowly. Significant areas of land adjacent to the bay in the SF Bay Area are subsiding and it is the combination which is creating the biggest risks to low-lying human habitation. But the erosion of the cliffs in Pacifica has almost nothing to do with climate change. Those cliffs are basically sandstone (if I remember right), and they get steadily eroded whenever a storm rolls in... and they have been doing that long before humans entered the scene. Climate change is responsible for a tiny, tiny fraction of that erosion. -Matt

  145. @MattZN - I agree with MattZN that "the erosion of the cliffs in Pacifica has almost nothing to do with climate change." Those cliffs are not granite or other hard rock, and the constant crashing of waves on the cliffs causes constant erosion. And that has been happening since long before humans entered the scene. Climate change, if it is responsible for any of the erosion at all, is responsible for only a tiny, tiny fraction of the erosion.

  146. @MattZN Yes, exactly. Thank you for making that point.

  147. @MattZN I agree BUT one cannot separate the part we play in making bigger more powerful storms. Yes there have always been storms but we are making them worse.

  148. What people do not realize is that the cake is already baked. Based on what has already been emitted, the positive feedback loop is in motion. The thawing of the arctic and burning forests will emit huge amounts of gasses that cannot be stopped. This will occur even if we stop all burning of fossil fuels. These gases will continue global warming. Just this year in Australia, the fires produced the same amount of emissions as Japan in one YEAR. And that is just one example.

  149. @albert I agree. But if that becomes the headline then all out panic or something quieter but more insidious will occur. The horse has left the barn.

  150. Articles like this are increasingly common in the Times. Take a bunch of good photos, and personal stories, and weave them into a "privileged Americans vs. desperate (insert citizen of other country)." There is a lot more to this story than the narrative put forth by these reporters. There are myriad rich folks in the Phillipines, too. And a potentially functioning government. Why aren't they helping their citizens? Corruption? Also, overpopulation is a massive driver of the problem in the Phillipines, one of the most densely-populated nations on Earth. One of the reasons more citizens in the Bay Area is wealthy is because, since the 1970s, it has been able to reasonably control growth. To just make this into a have-versus-have not story is lazy, easy, and doesn't give credit to the legions of planners and scientists here in the Bay Area who are slowly and surely putting together solid plans and responses for sea level rise.

  151. @Bryan Bryan, you can see as well as I can that huge building projects are occurring all over downtown as older and poorer sections of town (south of Market, Mission, Bayview, etc) are raised and replaced by luxury apartment buildings/condos selling for 'market rates.' The last mayor surrendered to the tech industry and the influx of wealth that is forever changing the City. The 'controlled growth' you mention is history. We are one earthquake of 7.0 magnitude away from catastrophe. The only solution our legislators can come up with is to rezone residential areas for multistory dwellings. It's not pretty...

  152. In the end, insurance companies will compel dramatic action to confront the effects of climate change. When insurance companies declare that huge swaths of the pacific coast, the gulf and east coasts are uninsurable, thereby precipitating inordinate devaluations, the government will wake up. Until that time, these articles are interesting and informative, but won’t move the needle.

  153. Mortgage lenders are in the same position. When a property is not suitable collateral for a mortgage loan, the property value will decline sharply. That will ease the price for ‘managed retreat’!

  154. @Allan Another sad example of a private company taking on a role that our government should, but no longer can.

  155. @Allan Maybe, but so far both private and government insurance programs are subsidizing coastal housing by spreading the costs of coastal erosion to rate payers and taxpayers far inland.

  156. The Pacifica story foretells what will happen: "“Are we going to decide by not deciding, and wait for the water to reach our doorsteps?” asked Aaron Peskin, a member of the San Francisco board of supervisors." The answer to that is yes. It is the easiest thing to do. If I were a resident of the area, I would make my plans based on that assumption.

  157. It's been said before. It's already done. The ball is rolling and its cumulative so enjoy what you have because I dont see a way to reverse it for those grandkids. But don't worry think of the huge returns on investments we made as a civilization...wow

  158. @Travis ` I have to agree. Given the precipitous drop in our collective intelligence, nothing significant is going to be done. At the end, we will all be looking at each other wondering how this happened. And then we will go looking for the politicians and the rich people.

  159. @Jeffrey Tierney So. You recommend instead we blame poor people?

  160. This is an excellent piece with powerful visuals. The precarious state of our natural world cannot abide the 7.8 billion people consuming and demanding and eating and having even more people. "The Bay Area and Metropolitan Manila are both big and growing, with a lot of people and things to protect on the coast." Fewer people. Fewer demands. Fewer abodes near the coast. These might slow the damage but nature, as is her wont, reclaims her own.

  161. Human beings have minds and intelligence. All reasoned decisions have both intended and unintended consequences. Often times, unfortunately, decisions may impart severe economic and emotional outcomes to those making them. In the case of climate change, where a reasonable human being can see the negative effect(s) of changes on their property, they need to make a decision. If they elect to ignore the obvious results of flooding, then they may be subject to possibly fatal outcomes. That is natures way of culling the human footprint. Harsh as it may be, it is the only way to deal with irrational human decisions when faced with obvious, fatal threats.

  162. @Ev Yes, the school of hard knocks can be a brutal teacher, and it looks like many of us are going to get a first hand experience.

  163. @Ev Try telling that to poor people who can't afford to rent anywhere but in flood plains.

  164. I am on a local land use advisory commission in a coastal area. It continues to amaze me that while our newer shoreline regulations place homes further from the shoreline, folks that are building regularly ask for and are granted variances to build at least part of their home within the setback. At one meeting I asked the architect proposing a substantial remodel, putting much of the extension in the setback on a no bank parcel, what the plan is for the increasing tides that are measurable even here and he looked as though someone had just slapped him in the face. Of course he had not considered it and of course the variance was permitted. A person simply has to wonder...

  165. @PA You should come to Florida if you think that is ridiculous, which it is.

  166. @PA I used to be on a Conservation Board locally, and so used to follow the legislation, and court fights. It boggles the mind that when the threats were known decades ago ( and are more dire now) that someone should be allowed permits for new construction or variances that ignore the risks in areas threatened by rising oceans. Or that anything on barrier islands or low-lying coastal areas can be insured.

  167. @PA On top of the stupidity of the financial risk is the fact that we would all be better off not developing shorelines and letting marshes help fend off storm waters.

  168. All this and yet San Francisco is planning on a multi-billion-dollar development of Treasure Island, which is located just a few feet above sea level in San Francisco Bay. Crazy right?

  169. @osavus Quite a lot of people are going to be very angry in a few years. But, what--me worry?

  170. Sea levels in SanFrancisco are measured precisely by NOAA, and the results are available to the public https://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?id=9414290 The measured levels are in blue. They rose at EXACTLY THE SAME RATE in the 1860's as they do now. So all the 1000 fold increase in emissions had no effect whatsoever on the rate of rise, SAME 0.8ft/century now as then. If the whole world would go North Korea, cold, hungry, foraging for roots, so as to reduce emissions to the 1860's levels, sea levels in SFO would rise like in 1860 at the SAME 0.8 ft/century as they do now. Of course in computer models seas would rise by tens if not hundreds of feet, starting, like, next Tuesday. Why next Tuesday? Because it's always next Tuesday. A century from now, it will be next Tuesday. (I still remember, in Popeye, that the money lent would be returned next Tuesday.) There were lots of huge glaciers doing tremendous things, all with great pictures in the NYT. Yet sea levels show no effect of that at all. None. Same 0.8ft/century. Look at the graph. Now please do not misunderstand me, who am a simple physicist looking at the actual data, because, well, that is what physicists do. Please, please give ALL your money to a politician who promises to stop catastrophic waters from rising. Making gas $20/gallon, and stopping your heating. The last one to promise that he will slow the waters rise was Obama. He kept all his promises. All, except for this one.

  171. @novoad Thanks for forwarding that link from NOAA. Notice thought that the rate of change in sea level they quote is the result of a linear regression of the data, which by its nature will give you one single rate across all data points. If you look at the 95% confidence lines, you will notice that they are wider at both ends of the regression line. This means that the .18mm/yr number is most accurate at the center of the graph (around 1960) than it is at the 1900 or 2020 ends (you can't start with 1850 because apparently the data was collected differently at that point; see "apparent datum shift" notation). This indicates that a more accurate regression model would be a curve, not a line, which reinforces the idea that the water level rise is accelerating.

  172. @David The uncertainty or error curves open up at the ends because there is not as much data around, so there is less certainty. That has nothing to do with acceleration or deceleration. Papers which have looked at ALL the shore data found no acceleration whatsoever. If there were an acceleration, the line in the middle would be curved. It is not.

  173. @novoad Thanks for that; it's always good to hear from scientists. We'll remember you when we are under water.

  174. Time for the Green New Deal. Vote for Bernie, he is taking on climate change. Antarctica had its first 65 degree day on Tuesday...Look out!

  175. As long as I have been alive, Pacifica has been crumbling into the sea. So too for many other areas in California such as Malibu, Pacific Palisades and areas in San Diego County. They are marked by very expensive homes placed in harms way from the day that they were built. Most owners get but for decades until a “storm of the century” comes along and suddenly places the ocean in their living room. Then they attack local government for not building a very expensive sea wall which holds until the next “storm of the century” just a few years after the last one. Go figure. Rising sea levels will only make matters exponentially worse. I blame very irresponsible home owners, local governments and developers. The greed factor overwhelms their risk analysis and they roll the dice. That’s ok; I just wished that they would not want everyone else to pay for their view. If you plan to live in California, take into account not only rising seas but earthquake and fire risk. You can only mitigate these risks, not make them go away.

  176. @Mark Young I concur, Mark. Stay in Iowa!

  177. @Mark Young It's not just California. Look at the vast flood-prone areas across the nation where people build, knowing full well that they are playing with the devil, but that FEMA will bail them out to rebuild.

  178. "The median home value in East Palo Alto is $926,286." East Palo Alto may be a low income area, but the average house price is a million.

  179. @Keith Dow ...which is utterly ridiculous. The entire Bay Area is overpriced. But that's the magic of the marketplace.

  180. @Keith Dow - that's the same process Trump uses to make incomes appear to be rising faster than the tides!

  181. I greatly appreciate this well-written article and its stunning photos. I did have trouble likening the lot of the two populations, i.e., impoverished residents of Manila and the fortunate owners of San Francisco’s waterfront real estate. Maybe the author thought the draw of SF would move people to consider the larger world. As with Trump news bettering us today, I don’t know what it will take for those in power to make things right. I also wonder how much money fell into the hands of corrupt officials in the Philippines for such disgraceful conditions to keep cursing people’s lives.

  182. You didn't show that the Manila coastline, aside from its poverty-stricken residents, is also lined with some of the plushest hotels, casinos, and high-rises, as well as one of the largest shopping malls in the world. This new section of the city stand on reclaimed coastal land and it continues to grow with new construction.

  183. @Alex Bernardo "Reclaimed coastal land" is another way of saying that area was developed at the expense of further flooding in surrounding areas.

  184. Not to worry. Trump to the rescue. It's seasonal thing to him. In certain months, the sea water will recede and all will be well.

  185. One does not have to imagine the future. It is here today at the Panamá canals. Their operation depends on the water level of Lake Gatun, a large lake between the Atlantic and Pacific, through which all ships must pass to traverse either of the canals. Climate change has led to a lack of rain and increased evaporation which has caused the water of the lake to fall to such a low level that operations at full capacity are now impossible. The financial rating agencies have put the Panamá Canal Authority debt on negative watch. The PCA has announced a program to spend $2 billion to assure water availability. For more than a hundred years water has been free to the PCA. This development is a huge and underreported one. Last year 6% of the world's produced goods transited the canals. The US, China and Japan, the world's 3 largest economies, were the 3 largest users of the canals. It is incredible that the world's media have ignored this story. It represents the most profound story to date of the economic affects of climate change. The PCA is the canary in the economic coal mine. Wake up world!

  186. What I suddenly realized was that 2100 wasn't so far in the future as I thought it was. We are 1/5 th of the way from 2000. Those under the age of 10 have a decent shot of living to 2100. That is if overpopulation, total ecological collapse, the coming virus that will spread like measles and kill like Ebola, or something else doesn't end our species. There is a similar problem with Jakarta and Bangladesh. Back in 1975, we decided not to have children. We didn't know all these details, but it was quite clear humanity was on a bad path.

  187. @Mike S. Weren't we supposed to be, kind of, submerged by now?

  188. @novoad No, never. It was 3 mm a year, measured from space. One time, that was different--turns out that the Amazon had flooded. Lot of variability of course, due to either sinking land or post-glacial rebound, so that figure is an average. It is accelerating, and I suspect the current predictions will end up being too conservative, but that is just my opinion.

  189. @Mike S. Humanity has been scheduled to disappear due to famine, war, flooding and disease approximately 245 times in the last millennium alone. Yet the earth is supporting billions more of us, at a generally healthier level, than was thought possible even a hundred years ago. Do we experience serious setbacks? Of course. Then we face them and move on. Odds are good that the kids you might have had would have lived to see a more prosperous, diverse and healthy world than you apparently can imagine. This is from one who was born into a war-ravaged world and a very poor household, suffering from a serious kidney infection, 77 years ago.

  190. You cannot hold back the ocean for ever. At some point, the cost/benefit analysis will require managed retreat to be accepted as the best option. The upside is this provides an incredible opportunity to restore the beauty of our natural shorelines and beaches.

  191. The Times is a great resource, but it undercuts its credibility when it overstates 5 - 7 cm per year since the early 90’s, when that’s the total rise over 20 years, not the annual rate. Just a 20-fold exaggeration; nothing to change the narrative.

  192. @John I saw that too, but I give the Times the benefit of the doubt that it was an honest mistake, not intentionally exaggerating the effects of climate change.

  193. @John I clicked on the link to the reporter's source embedded in the article: she accidentally substituted "cm" (centimeters) for "mm" in the source doc: "Satellite observations from 1993 to 2015 show that the tropical Western Pacific region, to the east of the Philippines, has experienced a sea level increase of 5-7 mm/yr, which is about twice the global average." That from the beginning of the Executive Summary of this report: http://www.precisrcm.com/DFID_Philippines_Reporting/Philippines_Sea_Level_Report_Oct_2016.pdf

  194. If you can build a house on the coast, why can't you also build a proper sea wall to protect it? Zero sympathy for these coastal millionaires.

  195. @Gabe I lived in Pacifica for a couple years as a child. It's an interesting city in that it's coastal property in the bay area at an affordable cost. A lot of small tract homes nestled in hill sides, like the one I lived in. I walked to school seeing the Pacific ocean but didn't realize how special that was. Anyway, the town has little business tax base, the schools aren't highly regarded, and it's mostly a bedroom community (access to and from has been improved by the devil's side bypass). It's not really a place awash in money that can protect people from bluff erosion. It's very questionable whether a lot of those home/apartments should had ever been built there--in the 80s I took a geology class field trip there and the instructor explained why the long term prognosis for much of the real estate was very poor and gave a warning to us.

  196. @Gabe Did you not see the mobile home park pictured in the drone video of Pacifica? These are not millionaires, but long time residents, many of them elderly, many living in 70+ year old housing, who are literally clinging to the end of the earth with nowhere to go and no money to get them there. Come on now, I gently encourage you to expand your understanding of California and its wildly diverse economies and communities.

  197. @Gabe You cannot "build" yourself out of these situations, but Relocate, as well as Readjust: our behavior and our assumptions!

  198. People still think of climate change as a reversible, short-lived phenomenon. It's not. Sooner or later large swaths of coastal communities will be permanently flooded. No one imagines relocating entire villages or sections of cities 10 or 20 miles inland, but that's what they will do incrementally. Someone needs to think long-term instead of short-term palliatives.

  199. @Think_different Someone ALREADY thinks long-term. His name is Senator Bernie Sanders, who has our vote for sure in 2020 primary elections!

  200. Being a San Franciscan, (I rent, we cannot afford to buy) it is stunning to contrast the photographs of the two different city coastlines. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a first world country, in spite of the warts. Grateful in SF...

  201. @Douglas Actually, the article focused only on an especially poor part of metro Manila and gives a distorted view of what the coastline there looks like as whole. I frequently travel there and just came back a few days ago. I'm not saying there is no problem, but metro Manila is not just a "poor" city. It is a thriving dynamic metropolis filled with both poverty and incredible wealth, beauty and charm. Oftentimes we get a media viewpoint of the developing world that reinforces a view that we are rich and "they" are poor and feels elitist and uninformed.

  202. The sea level off the northern California coast is certainly rising, and at an accelerating rate, but by far the greatest contribution to shoreline erosion is the increasing ferocity of winter storms and the impact that has on coastal waters. Extra inches of ocean water with everything else constant would not cause the level of damage that these communities are experiencing.

  203. @Garry Correct!

  204. A foot of sea level rise doesn’t sound like much, but a rise in sea level of 1 foot, averaged globally, moves the shoreline inland 300 feet, and it's worse in places like S Florida and Bangladesh. One foot of sea level rise caused hurricane Sandy to flood an additional 25 square miles. Recently the NASA glaciologist Eric Rignot said that when you look at acceleration in ice sheet mass loss that we are already on pace for a meter of sea level rise by 2100; if the ice sheets don’t start a rapid retreat. In that case sea level rise might be several meters by 2100 and 10 meters by 2500. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N35x3SlyWzs&t=869s The longer we stay on this track the faster and higher sea levels will rise.

  205. The beneficial aspect of these distressful cases is that they provide a pilot test of sorts on how other coastal settlements may have to respond -- a spur to action. In other words, the effects of climate change will occur in increments at different locations around the world and, that way, provide an empirical view of the future -- however ghastly.

  206. This sounds like a terrible pun, but I mean it: there's a sunk cost fallacy here. No one would ever choose to build these residences just where they are now. But now that they have them there, they'll spend endless resources to keep them.

  207. @bess And how much of that cost will be forced upon taxpayers? Insurance companies spread the risk cost over the pool of policy holders as well, so there's another way other people are forced to pay for the greed of municipalities and of developers who build in high risk areas.

  208. @nom de guerre Here is your answer, from a beach person. In 1950 the US Government paid 5% of post-hurricane rebuild costs when most beach homes were tiny cottages. Today "we" pay 70% to 100% of these costs. The homes today on the beach are all above $500,000, a small place, to many millions. When a large amount of government cash is available every crook in the country is there with hand out. If you want a home looking at the ocean you have the right. You shouldn't have the "right" for me to rebuild for you in a zone known for flooding. Don't even get me started on the destruction of dunes. We create our own headaches when we cover the back-sides of people who make poor decisions>

  209. Part of the challenge is how to describe sea level change in terms people understand and can use. Saying that it might rise 2 meters in 100 years might make sense to the scientists and the disaster junkies but it’s outside the frame of reference that most people use to make decisions and plan their lives. A different approach would be to state estimated remaining years of habitability and estimated cost of extending habitability by average ownership span for near sea level properties. So for the $1.6M property in Pacifica that the article mentioned the estimated years of habitability might be something like 10 years and the cost of extending it another 20 years might be $5M. Since the cost of protecting it might to too high to justify, then it’s net present value would be based on the potential rental income until it’s condemned in 10 years or so, not the potential resale value in a rising highly speculative property market. The current owner, if he or she doesn’t want to become a landlord, might need to sell it at a loss to some other person willing to take the risk that the property’s economic life extends beyond the 10 year estimate. That’s a set of analysis and decisions that people in the USA can wrap their heads around, just like the woman in the Philippines trying to decide where to live with her baby, rather than trying to imagine how wet it’s going to be long after we’re all dead.

  210. @doug mclaren Agreed. The last time atmospheric CO2 was this high was several million years ago and sea level was high enough that today it would force 10 percent of the human population to move. That's 700 million refugees. It takes time for temperature and sea level to equilibrate with increased CO2, and we're going to push CO2 to levels not seen for tens of millions of years . . . Here's a graph of the last 400,000 years of global temperature, CO2 and sea level, see where current CO2 is and where temperature and sea level are headed. http://www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/images/impacts/slr-co2-temp-400000yrs.jpg

  211. Ah, maybe it's time to move.

  212. I am tired of all of the "climate change " "global warming" phonies. Name one, just one, of them thats has changed their own personal lifestyle to combat this fake crisis. Al Gore, Hollywood celebs, all fly private jets, have multiple homes etc. hypocrites all of them.

  213. @Nelson Muntz Personal efforts to reduce one's own carbon footprint are laudable, but insufficient. From the Nobel Laureate Yale economist William D. Nordhaus recently: ”A target of 2½ °C is technically feasible but would require extreme virtually universal global policy measures." Without those measures we'll take the climate this century beyond human experience and adaptive capability. No matter what you do as an individual. https://www.scribd.com/document/335688297/Nordhaus-climate-economics?

  214. @Erik Frederiksen I respectfully disagree, in that it's not an either/or choice. Individual actions are important to help people to adapt and to change their lifestyle choices. We need to have a new consciousness to go along with the global actions.

  215. @Michael O’Brien I tried to come up with a response, but I already wrote it. Feel free to disagree, anyone's opinion these days seems better than the science.

  216. All it took was a temperature rise of 1 degree C to destroy the floating ice shelf which constrained the flow of the Jakobshavn Isbræ Glacier which drains part of the Greenland Ice Sheet by calving ice bergs into the ocean (that’s the mechanism for fast, large sea level rise). Globally ice shelves constrain about 25 meters of sea level rise equivalent of ice grounded below sea level where warming oceans can access it and it can make icebergs. It's minus 50 degrees C on parts of Antarctica, warm it up to minus 45 C and who cares? But it's at the melting point at the coast. The glaciologist Richard Alley said that a 1 degree C rise in temperature is a big insult to an ice shelf almost anywhere on the planet. When the Larsen B ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula broke up in 2002 the glaciers behind sped up 6-8 fold and are still flowing at that accelerated rate today because the cork was removed. Luckily there's comparatively little ice there. Just for fun, if we sped up all of Antarctica's glaciers by a factor of 6.5 sea level rise would be 4 meters per century, the same which occurred 14,600 years ago for 4 centuries during Meltwater Pulse 1A.

  217. The topic of climate change denial, via presidential or systemic, gets done over and over. I always wonder, how do we go about building hope? What does that look like? The topic is dire but presenting it as six of one half dozen of another is not balanced either. How do we build hope? Beyond your carbon footprint, how can we build hope?

  218. How jarring this is for me as a native San Franciscan. I grew up in the 50's and 60's, at a time when we would frequent Ocean Beach on those not-too-often sunny days in a fog-ridden area of The City called the Sunset. When my husband and I first married, we had an apartment over-looking our iconic ocean. Our city was appropriately named Pacifica. We use to climb down the little path by our apartment and find ourselves on the sandy beach with its driftwood, shells, and tide pools. That apartment building is no longer. The foundation collapsed and was on its way falling onto the shore before it was condemned. The cause was the erosion of that rocky cliff upon which our first home sat. We in California are doing all we can, as you all must know. But unless we have help from Washington DC all will be lost. I grieve.

  219. Climate change demands cooperation. If we don't, and we stay stuck in our usual self-centered battles, the waters will still take our coastal cities and we'll be left with only complaints. We could decide to have a national action plan, so we all share the costs and dislocations. The kids are ready now.

  220. What's particularly sad is that the people who will pay the highest price for all of our missteps, our technological follies, our reliance on fossil fuels and received the least amount of economic benefits from the use of fossil fuels are those who can least afford it and will be most impacted by climate change. Yes, people in San Francisco and surrounding areas will lose properties, recreational areas, beach front as a result of sea level rise. But the people in the Philippines will lose their lives as a result of more frequent and more intense storms that will bring about storm surges, flooding and wind damage. The writing on the wall is stark and clear as is the message that we need to act.

  221. The trend in global mean sea level rise doesn't bode well for coastal areas. 1870-1924 0.8mm per year 1925-1992 1.9mm per year 1993-2012 3.1mm per year Currently around 5 mm per year https://www.euronews.com/2019/09/22/watch-live-scientists-present-new-report-on-climate-change-effects-ahead-of-un-summit When you graph the above it looks very much like the beginning of a very non-linear upward curve. Graph of sea level rise through 2012 https://robertscribbler.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/hansen-sea-level-rise.png
 Graph of post glacial sea level rise, http://vademecum.brandenberger.eu/grafiken/klima/post-glacial_sea_level.png , note the curve at Meltwater Pulse 1A. Ice sheet mass loss, notice the lines curve downwards indicating acceleration. http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/IceSheet/IceMass.png

  222. @Erik Frederiksen, Non-linear only due to there's only so much ice that will melt-- and then it will most likely freeze in Antarctica. You know the place that climate changers never talk about because the ice shelves are growing.

  223. @Ryan Bingham You failed to read the last sentence of my post. Try again.

  224. Games up.

  225. The Republicans recently aired some lame climate change plans and were crucified by practically every Republican group..... Soon, Trump himself will be screaming "God wills it" concerting the continued use of fossil fuels...... What a country

  226. Barack and Michelle Obama look awfully stupid, plunking down 15 million dollars to buy an oceanfront property in Martha's Vinyard facing the Atlantic Ocean. Won't that property be deluged soon due to climate change? Strange how celebrities like the Obamas decry climate change and deny it in their personal lives.

  227. @Alex Just because they bought Ocean Front property does not mean they deny it. They simply can afford to, and like the beach. For those that do, it's an expensive luxury. Not a denial of anything!

  228. @Old Expat Are you saying that the rich can afford to avoid any catastrophe? Who would buy ocean front property when it surely will be underwater in just a few years? You can't have this both ways and the hypocrisy on the left with their religion of "climate" is getting a bit worn. We have already had the 10 years warning, 20 years ago from Gore. How did that work out? Was he a prophet? No!

  229. @Alex Your thoughts on the whole of Florida? Unimaginable amounts of money are spent on coastline in southern Florida. Oh, and then there is Mar A Lago. One would think that trump would be concerned. But then I suspect he would just expect the taxpayer would pay for the wall around his 'enclave'.

  230. One link to a report says that the sea-level is rising 5-7 centimeters per year. That should be millimeters.

  231. It should be interesting when the Southeast is gone, all those Red states underwater, crying for the government, FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers to bail them out and 100 trillion deficits. Talk about Reconstruction.

  232. @BoneSpur , What are you talking about? Ever hear about the Fall Line? Look it up.

  233. Time and tide wait for no person.

  234. If people are living in houses above water on stilts, where does the human waste go?

  235. @Bear Actually, the bazookas the kids swim among in that black water can have multiple sources.

  236. From the brilliant mind of our Supreme Leader POTUS Trump "Climate change is a Chinese Hoax". But as the majority of Americans know scientists have been sounding the alarm for decades and change needs to happen today, right now.

  237. @Hal . Guess what? The climate changes no matter what we do. it has been changing since it all started around 10,000 years ago. Glaciers formed by the great flood...melt and will continue to melt. ice melts, that is all. You people think that the industrial revolution has everything to do with climate change, but it does not. Hey man, I am all for controlling pollution. We have come along way since 1970. Trump is the best President we have had since JFK. Even race relations would have been MUCH better if the democrats didn't hijack his and MLK vision, get rid of them both and create welfare to keep the blacks and others contained in ghettos. But dude, stop thinking you are some super hero to save the world. the only thing going on is rich liberals creating things like paper straws and electric cars and making millions off of the climate scare. You probably believe the teenage climate actress who Time calls person of the year...but you do not realize without a script she is as smart as obama without a script. take care!!

  238. @toddhaub, 10,000 years ago, Salt Lake City was at the bottom of Lake Bonneville.

  239. come on Boomer. Get it together. Turn off FOX. Hannity has you being anti american. Only racist people want to remind people what they've done for the others. GOP tent is bleached white .....keep talking.

  240. "Some sea walls crumbled, at one point endangering a row of apartments. The 52 tenants were entitled to zero compensation. They just had to move — in one of the most expensive counties in the state. The city spent $620,000 on demolition." How much did the owner get?

  241. @Texas My question when I read that was: why didn't the owner pay for the demolition? Or the owner's insurance company? Why the taxpayers? Whether it's city or state or national government -- why don't taxpayers see government expenses as THEIR money?

  242. Armoring? More like band-aiding. Taking swimming lessons at the local YMCA might be an even more sustainable approach. It is high time to act on the causes, instead of awaiting the effects!

  243. "Already, there’s been unmanaged retreat in Pacifica. Some sea walls crumbled, at one point endangering a row of apartments. The 52 tenants were entitled to zero compensation. They just had to move — in one of the most expensive counties in the state. The city spent $620,000 on demolition. Other apartments, built years ago when the bluffs were wider, are now precariously close to the edge." How old was the apartment complex in which the tenants had to move (without compensation)? Were the tenants owners or renters?

  244. @nom de guerre Although I haven't lived there in quite a few years. Those apartments were most likely built in the early seventies, as Pacifica was a fairly small city, when I lived there. I moved away in the late seventies. Back then, it was a low rent area. How things have changed! Unfortunately in California there are few options for renters. If you are told to move, that's about it. You have to move. If they were owners, they might have had insurance, but even that does not always cover damage from " Acts of God".

  245. I am on the beach in Florida right now and we are at about 1-2 ft above sea level.2.5 ft rise would put most of the coast under water in 80 years.Construction of new homes and condos is ongoing.

  246. What an incredibly well-produced and incredibly informative report on a world-wide event: the triumph of nature over money and all that humankind can do to fight against nature's demands. I live just outside Boston, and it is not at all clear to me if anything can be done to save the city. My thanks to the Times for such brilliant use of today's digital tools of communication.

  247. @Bob K. - Meanwhile...our President is a "flat earther" and thinks that what we think are stars are small holes in the ceiling.

  248. Projections of sea level rise of only a few feet by century's end ignores the most recent research on the rapidly melting ice sheet of Greenland and the ice shelf and glaciers in West Antarctica. The rapidly melting Thwaites "Doomsday" glacier alone is expected to generate two feet of sea level rise. The last time this planet had in excess of 400ppm of CO2 in its atmosphere, sea level rise was approximately 60 feet. Of course, that took several millennia to occur. We humans are creating our own apocalypse much more rapidly.

  249. All one has to do is look at the geology of the coast along San Francisco, and especially Pacifica, and see that houses should never have been built that close to the ocean. This is an area of land slides and earth quakes. Why are we constantly refusing to use common sense and then scream about climate change? This is not denial of climate change; we knew in the 80s that we should not build close to the edge.

  250. Millions and millions of taxpayer dollars spent on protecting the properties of the wealthy but no way are they going to spend a dime to create affordable housing? This is not a San Francisco problem--this is a 'I'm rich and everyone else needs to bow to me' problem.

  251. Water is one of the great natural powers. We need to adapt to the water, its presence and power. Build to accommodate it and we will flourish. Someone with vision could make a mint by solving this. The political and financial issues outlined in this essay are the biggest problems. The water is comparatively simple.

  252. We just left the Frisco area. Have never been to Manila but have spent time in Florida. Sea level is rising, yes. But aren't we also expected to have a reprieve from the "solar minimum" that is coming and expect to last for years? One thing for sure. Population growth has to to stop. As for the Christ images on the walls in houses in Manila? Ask them to help get the Catholic Church to simply "allow" birth control. Population growth alone is fueling the majority of Mother Earth's intractable problems.

  253. Up until three years ago I was living in Pasco County Florida, the Sinkhole Capital of Florida. The last few years I lived there, I couldn't help but notice. The high tides were much higher than before. Our local man made beach and boardwalk, was often under water at high tide. The homes along the River going thru New Port Richey had water halfway up their lawns at high tide as well. They all had seawalls. In St Petersburg, there is a causeway that connects it to Tampa called the Gandy, Bridge. There was a popular beach alongside the roadway. Likewise the last two or three years that I lived there, the water entirely covered the beach right up to the roadway at High Tide. That was not true only a few years earlier. The Seas are rising, anyone who lives in a low lying area along any of our Coasts can tell you that!

  254. @Old Expat, And you pumped out the aquifer for golf courses and drinking water and the land sank.

  255. If all the sea ice currently bobbing on the oceans were to melt, it could raise sea level by 4 to 6 centimetres. That is less than 2.5 inches! Doesn't seem like melting ice bergs is the cause of rising sea levels..!

  256. @Ned H. Ned, please double check your numbers: "Antarctic ice melt could push sea levels to rise 1.5 metres by 2100" by the New Scientist.

  257. @Ned H. Melting sea ice doesn't raise sea level at all. It's melting land ice that raises it.

  258. @Ned H. Our brilliant congressman Mo Brooks says it's because of all the rocks falling into the ocean.

  259. This imaginative way of presenting the looming climate catastrophe shows visibly the need for a new global order. Part of making that global order possible is the transformation of the somewhat arcane area of the global money system. This unjust, unsustainable, and therefore, unstable international monetary system can be transformed by rooting it in the monetary standard of a specific tonnage of CO2e per person and its associated balance of payments that accounts for both financial and climate debts and credits. The latter system would transfer climate debts of the industrialized countries to the climate creditors in the developing world, so San Francisco would financially help Manilla as a matter of climate justice. The commercial, intellectual, ecological and strategic dimensions of such carbon-based international monetary system are seminally presented in Verhagen 2012"The Tierra Solution: Resolving the Climate Crisis through Monetary Transformation" (www.timun.net) Stated an outstanding economics writer and climate activist about the Tierra global governance system: “The further into the global warming area we go, the more physics and politics narrows our possible paths of action. Here’s a very cogent and well-argued account of one of the remaining possibilities.” Bill McKibben, May 17, 2011

  260. Humans must learn to live in safe areas...or pay the price. Not on the slope of a volcano, not in below-sea-level New Orleans, not in a flood zone along the Missouri, not on expensive landfill at the tip of Manhattan. We know the locations and we know safer places, however less "glamorous." Make it VERY expensive to break these common sense rules, and then refuse to "rescue" folks who choose stupidly.