From today’s Seattle P-I, here’s yet another concrete way that global warming may affect the Northwest: rising sea levels may force the city of Seattle to reengineer its downtown seawall.
Without a seawall, the businesses and roads along the Seattle waterfront simply wash away into Elliot bay. (Bummer.) The existing seawall is structurally unsound—it’s partially made of wood, which is being eaten by marine invertebrates known as "gribbles"–and the city has already done a fair bit of the design work for rebuilding it.
But a University of Washington climate science group now say that the proposed design, which assumes a .9 foot rise in sea levels over 75 years, may be too conservative. The group predicts that sea levels may rise somewhere in the range of 1 to 2.8 feet.
To me, this story underscores two points that are worth keeping in mind. First, there’s a huge range of uncertainty in climate predictions; nobody, not even the most well-respected scientists, really knows what’s going to happen. And that makes planning really tough, and probably more expensive than you might otherwise think, or hope. And second, there are lots of little ways in which rising global temperatures could affect our lives and our pocketbooks. Doomsday scenarios range from the unlikely to the comical (think "The Day After Tomorrow"), but that doesn’t mean that the costs and consequences of global warming aren’t very real.