WASHINGTON – Those who warn us about the worst possible consequences of global warming predict that coastal areas around the world will disappear because of rising sea levels caused by melting polar caps.
Rising sea levels
Yes, the image of coastal communities and even large cities under water is scary. But it is clear that not much will be done, at least in the near future, to stop or even cut down the use of carbon-based energy –the main cause of global warming.
And this is simply because at the moment there are no good alternatives to coal, gas or oil, especially in emerging countries that desperately need energy in order to promote economic development. Which is to say that global warming is here to stay.
However, this is not a hopeless situation. And this is because adaptation is possible. And here is a clever idea. Instead of relocating farther inland millions of people who may be threatened by rising sea levels, we can build entire communities on safe and cost-effective floating structures.
And this is exactly what Dutch architect Koen Olthuis of Waterstudio.nl has been doing –quite successfully– in the Netherlands and elsewhere. His motive is not necessarily to find a way to fight the impact of global warming. His main point is that building on water is a way to acquire new space for human usage, this way revolutionizing the way we think of cities surrounded by water. The added bonus is that, should sea levels rise at some point in the future, floating structures will not be threatened. They would simply adjust accordingly.
New cities built on water
According to Olthius, building on water is doable. There are no real disadvantages. In congested coastal communities, building floating homes and other structures that sit on water allows expansion, without giving up all the comforts and amenities that we associate with living in “regular buildings”.
Look, at some point we may indeed find a good alternative to carbon-based energy –according to most the main cause of global warming. But, until we do, it seems that we can find ways to adapt to at least some of the consequences of rising temperatures.
Relocating millions of people into floating homes sounds expensive and complicated; but it is probably a lot easier than convincing 1. 3 billion Chinese and 1.1 billion Indians to give up coal generated electricity.
For the time being, the Indians and the Chinese really have no practical power generation alternatives. Whereas floating homes will allow people all over the world to adjust to a new environment.