Cry Me A River: Let’s Talk Floods

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Last Tuesday November 12, as many of you undoubtedly saw, flood levels in Venice, Italy hit their second highest level ever. Two five-foot-high tides also occurred throughout the week. While the city, famous for its canals and water ways, is no stranger to flooding, the magnitude of these tides has left the city reeling and many residents panicked about permanent damage and what’s to come. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro explicitly blamed climate change for these floods and in an ironic twist befitting our best satirists, life imitated art as the Veneto Regional Council room flooded for the first time ever just minutes after the local government rejected measures to combat climate change. So, with that in mind, let’s talk about the government’s role in combating climate change.

Here at Flat World we extol, and believe in, the ability of private capital and investment to move the needle on environmental and social issues (all while delivering a nice financial return). With that said, any true effort to combat climate change must have immense governmental input and, ultimately, follow through. Between the Paris Climate Accords, the proposed Green New Deal, and any number of other environmental proposals politicians are not short on rhetoric but, to date, they have been short on delivering results. Venice is a perfect example. Launched in 2003, the MOSE project is a $6b sea wall project meant to block the city and its lagoon from rising tides. However, after 16 years of cost overruns, corruption scandals, and now record floods that may have caused irreparable damage to city landmarks, the project is still only targeted to be finished by year-end 2021, after at least two more years of what we presume will be record flooding and high tides.

This month, U.S. President Donald Trump officially withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Climate Accords (an agreement that already lacks true enforcement) while presumably asking the Venetian council members to hold his beer so that he and his Environmental Protection Agency could also block the state of California from enforcing stricter tailpipe emission standards. At a time when the impact investing industry is growing by leaps and bounds, renewable energy sources are not only competitive but often cheaper than fossil fuel alternatives. Public sentiment is firmly on the side of action and it is more important than ever that government pull its weight and helps drive the change. Unfortunately, unlike the advice I would give to the good people of Venice right now, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Tucker Pribor,

Not just a Venice problem — a journal piece produced recently in put nearly three times as many people in coastal areas at risk of flooding than previously thought.

Want to chip in and do your part? Join the growing trend of young people suing their governments over climate change.

Litigation not quite your cup of tea? Ok, Boomer. Rising Tide by John M. Barry is a readable and useful chronicle of a surprisingly under-documented subject in national history, The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.

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