Everyone wants to live by the water. They look forward to finding a flooded river flowing through their living room. They like the idea that the lake is slowly turning their front yard into a swamp. And they can’t wait for the day when the ocean’s rising tide will officially claim their property as part of the realm of Aquaman.
Businesses have the same blind spots as homeowners. Restaurants are more romantic when the menus are accompanied by maps showing evacuation routes. Hotels get premium rates when they can offer guests views of their vehicles being dragged off by a storm surge. And nothing makes an office building more attractive to tenants than the prospect of being trapped on the roof by swirling currents that were formerly part of the Arctic ice cap.
Nowhere is this unfettered enthusiasm for getting wet more evident than on the Portland waterfront. The city recently had to enact a six-month moratorium on new developments there, because so many entrepreneurs, some of them sporting vestigial gills, were eager to invest millions in building new hotels, eateries and condos in places that, within a few decades, show a high likelihood of becoming barnacle farms.
You may not believe in global warming, but regardless of your propensity for ignoring reality, sea levels along the Maine coast are rising. You could check out Surf Street in Camp Ellis in Saco. Or you could if Surf Street still existed. In the last couple of decades, big storms and the incompetence of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have caused the road and several cottages along it to be washed into the Atlantic. That debacle ought to serve as a warning for what’s coming.
But – in spite of a way-too-late legislative proposal to borrow $50 million to put fingers in dikes all along the Maine coast – it hasn’t.
An assessment done by the environmental group States at Risk puts it bluntly. “Maine faces considerable and significantly increasing threat levels from extreme heat, drought, inland flooding, and coastal flooding between now and 2050,” the reports states. “However, the state has taken limited action to plan and implement climate change adaptation strategies.”
Are there any hard numbers to back up that fearmongering? Well, yes.
In 2017, the Island Institute cited research done by a team at Rutgers University. “Even under optimistic, low carbon emissions assumptions,” the report says, “they project the likely (sea level) rise for Maine at 4 to 10 inches in the next 12 years, 6 to 16 inches in the next 30 years, and one to 2.5 feet over the next 80 years.”
It gets worse.
“Under more realistic carbon emissions assumptions, projections increase to 8 to 17 inches in the next 30 years, and 1.5 to 4 feet over the next 80 years.”
Let’s put that in simpler terms. If you live in Scarborough, your new town motto will be “Blub, Blub, Blub.” L.L. Bean in Freeport will be offering ferry service to its flagship store. The Bush compound at Walker’s Point in Kennebunkport will be a national marine sanctuary. And Portland’s waterfront will be transformed from overdeveloped to oversaturated.
Also, that waterfront will move a block or two further inland.
On the bright side, the fishing industry, which is currently being squeezed out of space for mooring vessels and processing the catch, will find the competition from developers dissolving in the salt spray. Because:
Hotels not so much.
Rise above the rhetoric and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.