Climate Change Has Made Venice More Vulnerable to Flooding
Sea level rise could cause the historic city to flood twice a day by 2100.
Tourists waded through landmarks in Venice, Italy, on Monday as the historic city saw the highest tide in nearly a decade, HuffPost reports.
The surge was head-high in some areas, causing more than 5 feet of water to cover about 70% of the city. Floodwaters turned Piazza San Marco, Venice's central public square, into a giant swimming pool and consumed seating outside of restaurants. Meanwhile, officials set up raised walkways to help visitors and locals navigate the city, and many businesses reinforced their doors in an effort to keep the water out.
Venice frequently floods when strong winds push water in from the lagoon. However, the surge on Monday was several feet above the norm.
The flooding comes as the rest of Italy also faces heavy rains and flooding, which have toppled trees and killed 11 people in related incidents across the country, BBC News reports.
In response to the severe weather, Italian officials have closed schools and major tourist sites like the Colosseum and Roman Forum, according to the Associated Press.
Venice, which attracts about 20 million visitors each year, has long faced the pressures of rising sea levels along with unsustainable levels of tourism met by insufficient storm infrastructure.
Venice has taken some steps to prevent catastrophic flooding in the past. The city began the MOSE Project in 2003 — an ambitious engineering project to install gates at each mouth of the lagoon, where high tides pose the greatest threat. However, a corruption scandal and financial strain have derailed progress on the barriers.
As Monday's floodwaters begin to recede, Venice is grappling with a long-term plan for flood resilience. The city must act with urgency, since scientists predict that the Mediterranean Sea could rise 5 feet by 2100, which would cause Venice to flood twice a day, according to CityLab.
Millions of people across the globe, are already experiencing destructive flooding due to climate. Coastal cities like Osaka, Japan; Alexandria, Egypt; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Shanghai, China; and Miami, Florida face some of the highest risks, the Guardian reports.
It is estimated that 275 million people globally live in areas that will eventually be underwater. However, the impacts of sea level rise will be felt unevenly, with four out of five people affected living in Asia.