Guardian Notices City Beachside Homeowners are Wealthy Enough to Ignore Sea Level Rise

No sign of acceleration: Boston Sea Level Trends (source NOAA).

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

And beachfront high-rise development is still OK providing the developer plants a few weeds in front of the buildings.

Will climate change end waterfront living? Not if you can afford it

Oliver Milman in Boston @olliemilmanMon 20 Apr 2020 20.15 AESTLast modified on Tue 21 Apr 2020 00.43 AEST

Boston has endured several tumultuous eras, from being the birthplace of the American revolution to its seesawing fortunes as power and influence was wrested away by other US cities.

Now Boston faces its most existential threat yet – the rising seas.

Ironically, Boston is experiencing a surge in waterfront development at the very moment its growing risk to disastrous flooding becomes clear. The refashioning of Boston’s waterfront holds valuable lessons to other cities threatened by sea level rise – in terms of innovation but also wrenching concerns over displaced communities.

“It is an unfortunate quirk of timing,” admitted Nick Iselin, the general manager of development at Lendlease. Last summer, the property company completed the first phase of its Clippership Wharf development in East Boston, on the Boston Harbor waterfront. Nearly all of the 284 apartments have already been snapped up, with a second site in the same project set to be completed this year. In all, there will be 478 residencies on the seven-acre site.

City authorities are planning around a contingency of 40 inches of sea level rise by 2070 – a scenario that would inundate large swathes of Boston.

But Lendlease is embracing an approach more attuned to nature, one that leans upon the idea of living with the encroaching water rather than waging war against it – an ethos more common in the Netherlands or Venice than the US. Clippership Wharf has Boston Harbor’s first “living shoreline” – a network of natural plantings, salt marshes, rocky beaches and wildlife habitats aimed at dissipating waves from storms and subtly taming the high tides.

Read more:

This Guardian article is an intriguing departure from their normal position on beachside living. Most Guardian articles slam shoreline development as being too hazardous in the age of climate change, but Oliver Milman’s Guardian story reads like an infomercial written by the developers.

Having said that, the Guardian for once makes a valid point. Boston, like many US coastal cities, is pretty much built on landfill. The Guardian notes that Boston’s Logan International Airport used to be a series of sand islands.

The idea that cities which have been pushing back the seas for centuries will suddenly pack up and leave if threatened by a few inches more than expected has always been one of the more absurd green ideas – as even Guardian contributors are starting to notice.

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April 21, 2020 10:04 am

“Will climate change end waterfront living? Not if you can afford it” ?
Wait, shouldn’t the price be dropping due to the “horrific” SLR ?

Bryan A
April 21, 2020 10:07 am

The sea level rise indicated in he first graph appears to have a 30 year oscillation trend
1920 – 1930 lesser rise
1930 – 1960 greater rise
1960 – 1990 lesser rise
1990 – 2010 greater rise
2010 – current similar to 1920 – 1930

Reply to  Bryan A
April 21, 2020 11:52 pm
April 21, 2020 10:14 am

Actions speak louder than words, demonstrating clearly that nobody, other than the extremely gullible and some brainwashed school children, really, deep-down, actually do believe the global warming BS, no matter what they say.

Al Miller
Reply to  Art
April 22, 2020 11:55 am

+100! If not for hypocrites, Climate Change would have precious few acolytes.

April 21, 2020 10:20 am

Never mind climate change. Idiots have been building on flood plains for as long as I can remember.

Reply to  commieBob
April 21, 2020 12:28 pm

You made me think of a case that always brings a chuckle. Rich guy buys property in the 100 year flood plain and submits plans to build a house. Plans are denied by the county because it’s in the flood plain where they don’t allow homes to be built, period. Rich guy sues the county and wins in court, by golly he has a right to build a house on his property. County issues the building permits and before the house is completed it gets washed down river by a flood.

The case generated a lot of attention in the local news as it was a state vs. citizens rights case. News crews gave use regular updates on how close the water was getting to the house so they were also able to catch it on camera sliding off the foundation. Everyone got a good laugh at the owners expense, you don’t build in a flood plain unless you want to lose your house.

Brian R Catt
Reply to  Darrin
April 21, 2020 12:46 pm

Why aren’t American houses built from brick and fixed to the ground? Not only does it stop them floating away it can also help them from being blown away. I am reminded of the three little pigs, and the idiots in LA who have their wooden shed/houses (perhaps a better form of construction for an Earthquake Zone?) standing on wooden piles they aren’t fixed to – in an Earthquake Zone. Guess what happened next? And the ones on loose topsoil that end up at the bottom of the Canyon/Aroyo in mudslides. You can’t fix stupid.

Reply to  Brian R Catt
April 21, 2020 2:55 pm

My mother has lived in a house on pilings in the 100-year floodplain of a medium sized creek in the Washington DC suburbs for 45 years and countless floods. It’s really not a problem if you simply build for the inevitable. Her house is 6-4 feet above the ground. That’s all.

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Alex
April 21, 2020 4:36 pm

The River Works Plant (formerly Air Force Plant 29) in Lynn MA has buildings on pilings. Worked many years in MA – mostly at the River Works Plant as environmental engineer/consultant. Filled inactive turbine test area basement w/ low-density concrete & plant engineering had to do an analysis to make sure pilings would support extra weight. The River Works Plant is location of US’s 1st jet engine test.

Don K
Reply to  Brian R Catt
April 21, 2020 4:25 pm

“perhaps a better form of construction for an Earthquake Zone?”

Exactly. California banned unreinforced masonry construction after a magnitude 6 earthquake near Long Beach in 1933 destroyed 70 schools and damaged numerous other public buildings. Fortunately, the earthquake occurred at 6pm, not earlier in the day when school would have been in session. Reportedly, many of the 120 fatalities throughout the Los Angeles-Long Beach area were folks who ran outdoors and were struck by flying debris — another drawback to masonry construction. FWIW, it’s possible to design earthquake resistant structures. For example Los Angeles’ 90 year old city hall. But it’s not all that easy. And it’s not cheap.

Reply to  Don K
April 21, 2020 7:55 pm

Highly recommended for earthquake modeling, shake and bake….

Reply to  Don K
April 22, 2020 12:39 am

Japan has a long history of earthquakes, and nowadays high-rise buildings are often built on massive springs to help dissipate the vibration of the earthquake
China, in the Forbidden City had a unique system of building which used complex interlocking brackets called routings a the top of the pillars that allowed the whole structure to vibrate without falling down.
There an interesting piece on YouTube where a replica model of a temple was built with the system that successfully withstood extreme earthquake experiments.
All built without a nail or screw in sight!
The Mathematical bridge at Queens’ College Cambridge was supposedly built without any nails, but when subsequent generations reportedly took it to pieces to discover how it was done they couldn’t remember how to rebuild it and had to resort to metal fixings.

Reply to  Darrin
April 21, 2020 9:31 pm

Rich guy buys property in the 100 year flood plain and submits plans to build a house. Plans are denied by the county because it’s in the flood plain where they don’t allow homes to be built, period. Rich guy sues the county and wins in court, by golly he has a right to build a house on his property.

But doesn’t. Instead gets permission to sub -divide [brown paper bag under desk, holiday in Hawaii for planning officer] and chops up block into lots of smaller ones which he sells to less rich people.

Rich guy buys house on hillside in Gaudeloupe.
Houses of less rich guys get washed away in flood.
Insurance companies won’t play ball because houses built on floodplain.

Reply to  commieBob
April 21, 2020 12:53 pm

Along the Schuylkill River west of Philadelphia, the 100 year flood plane was exposed in the 1972 Hurricane Agnes flooding.
I can remember one building that had the water line on the wall inside .. 11 ft off the floor.
Somewhere since then, the flood plane designations seem to disappear and housing has sprouted up.

Reply to  Neo
April 22, 2020 9:09 am

Doesn’t always take a hurricane. We have a house built near a creek. Basement floor is ‘only’ 25 ft above flood stage. A tropical storm came up from Mississippi came up and got stuck between the mountains and the deep blue sea. Rained like crazy for 3 days over the watershed of “our” creek. I finally crested at 29ft. No previous flood even came close, maybe 16 ft. or so.

Moral of the story, history only tells you what has happened. Nobody can tell you what will happen.

Jeff Id
April 21, 2020 10:22 am

I just had to drop by and mention the title on this article is freaking awesome. Love it.

Reply to  Jeff Id
April 21, 2020 10:25 am

Miss ya.

April 21, 2020 10:23 am

The green zealots have been decrying the coming submersion of the Maldives since at least 1988. Developers continue to build luxury resorts on atoll after atoll in the Maldives. Well funded enterprises don’t risk hundreds of millions of dollars foolishly. It shows what they believe about the coming disappearance of the Maldives.

Brian R Catt
Reply to  Marc
April 21, 2020 12:14 pm

They are also now building new airports. The height of the Islands and price of property are both rising

Reply to  Marc
April 21, 2020 12:56 pm

Once they are sold plus maybe 10 years, they are completely out.

Reply to  Neo
April 21, 2020 7:38 pm

Who cares? Even if you assume it will get flooded sometime in the future that is a risk the buyer should evaluate, you don’t get waterside houses without risk. There are risks for building anywhere from volcanoes, earthquakes, landslips, tornadoes etc you name it nature has a way of throwing it at you.

I hope you aren’t asking for a Nanny state where the government must evaluate every multi decade risk for the buyer because they turn to complete idiots fuelled by governments holding there hands and protecting them from every risk.

Reply to  LdB
April 22, 2020 12:44 am

There are already cases in the UK where a court has thrown out development plans because the developers haven’t taken sufficient regard to climate change. Viz. Heathrow Third Runway.

Reply to  StephenP
April 22, 2020 1:06 am

Then you have an issue with the planning department get the government to make new laws. The green blob attempted this junk in Australia and it lost at every point along the way all the way up to the high court and we now have clarity in that council and planning can offer advice on effects of climate change they can not stop developments.

The green blob was talking about trying a different approach that worked in Netherlands they call it the second wave litigation but todate it’s all quiet on the western front.

April 21, 2020 10:23 am

Boston’s historical “waterfront” is a half-mile or more further inland in places than the current waterfront demarcation. There’s a reason the cities’ tony “Back Bay” neighborhood is called a bay.

Peter S
April 21, 2020 10:26 am

In one way the Guardian article is absolutely typical of “seas are rising” journalism: they do not show the graph that is at the top of the WUWT page. If they showed the graph, going back to 1920, showing a max of 3mm/year of increase (that’s less than a foot a century) and no increase in the last few decades, people would wonder what the heck they were talking about. We’re apparently supposed to be panicking over a steady, slow increase.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  Peter S
April 21, 2020 10:50 am

The Climate Scam has always been about utilizing future claims to enable the hustle, a power and wealth grab by the elitists getting in bed with the socialists. The climate boogeyman is always just over the horizon, like some Godzilla monster about to rise out of depths to frighten the sheep into giving up their freedoms.

Very similar to the current COIVD-19 lockdowns (at need to end now), now the claim for their need to to prevent a resurgence, when the original selling point was “flatten the curve.” With the Left it’s all just more examples of the “Never enough, Ever more” mindset.

Reply to  Joel O'Bryan
April 21, 2020 11:36 am

Opposition to removing lock downs comes primarily from Democratic politicians. It seems that they would rather unnecessarily further damage the economy in the hope that it helps them in November then do what’s necessary to help the people they’re governing. Perhaps this will backfire as those they’re governing wake up from their woke state of ignorant compliance.

Walter Sobchak
April 21, 2020 10:31 am

So, Obama is not worried about his $12 million seaside mansion on Martha’s Vineyard?

J Mac
April 21, 2020 10:36 am

Let the Guardian sink into the swamp of lurid irrelevance they have created and embrace.
Rest In Putrescence….

Ron Long
April 21, 2020 10:42 am

Yawn…I also have a plan for “40 inches of sea level rise by 2070…”. It involves beer and chips and me watching the Masters on TV. My plan is better than theirs, and certainly will achieve the same result. Stay sane and safe (notice how many people are struggling with the sane part?).

Reply to  Ron Long
April 21, 2020 10:50 am

Ron, I hope that you and all the other young folks here will check the SLR at Boston in 2070 and remind The Guardian of this projection – I won’t be around. I suspect that The Guardian may not be around, either.

Ron Long
Reply to  Retired_Engineer_Jim
April 21, 2020 1:03 pm

You got it, Retired_Engineer Jim, I will be 124, but no problem, because 124 is the new 80. Hang in there! Looks like you’re doing good on the “stay sane” part.

April 21, 2020 11:27 am

“Ironically, Boston is experiencing a surge in waterfront development …”

It’s only ironic if you buy into the climate change BS. If you accept the scientific truth, then this is to be expected since waterfront property is frequently considered more desirable. I’m sure many people complained about reduced property values as Boston was filling in wetlands converting waterfront views into buildings and landfills.

April 21, 2020 11:38 am

“City authorities are planning around a contingency of 40 inches of sea level rise by 2070…”

The NOAA tide gauge chart for Boston shows an average sea level rise of 2.86 mm/yr during the last 100 years. A 40 inch rise in the next 50 years would need to average 20.32 mm/yr. Good to know Boston’s city authorities are planning around this 7x increase.

Reply to  MuskOx12
April 21, 2020 11:46 am

Accepting the ground truth when it defies a political narrative is not a strong point of the political party that’s been running Boston for nearly a century.

April 21, 2020 12:02 pm

What is the geological trend in Boston?

Larry Hamlin
April 21, 2020 12:10 pm

NOAA tide gauge data has been updated to include 2019 actual data. As expected this tide gauge data shows no coastal sea level rise acceleration with many records including over a century of data points that have very small level of confidence measurement ranges.

For four decades (since the 1980’s) now the we have had the idiocy of never ending flawed claims by climate hype political alarmists promoting coastal sea level rise acceleration propaganda usually pointing to short time period satellite measurements of ocean sea level that are irrelevant to coastal locations.

The phony data unsupported coastal sea level rise acceleration propaganda of the last four decades is nothing but garbage.

April 21, 2020 12:13 pm

Does the guardian know that much of Boston was built on reclaimed wetlands?

Farmer Ch E retired
Reply to  Sean
April 21, 2020 1:36 pm

One would hope so. I think they can handle any sea level rise – real or imagined.

HD Hoese
April 21, 2020 12:27 pm

“In the North Sea, NAO [North Atlantic Oscillation] related sea level variations seem to be a hybrid of barotropic and baroclinic processes. Hence, they can only be adequately modelled with three-dimensional baroclinic ocean models that include contributions of baroclinic effects and large-scale atmospheric forcing external to the region of interest.”

April 21, 2020 1:02 pm

the problem is

the models are wrong. period, end of discussion.

the RECORD long term SLR of boston harbor is…

11 inches per CENTURY.

i have to deal with it constantly, since i am a Land surveyor/civil engineer and the first response at meetings with the authorities about mitigating sea level rise is.
Which sea level rise, the Actual official records recording sea level rise where the client’s building most likely will not be there anymore by the time it gets to be a problem, or the models where there is absolutely no chance that it actually occurs in the time frame you are postulating.

Then i explain that SLR in boston harbor is raising- right now- at a rate of about 11 inches a century or about a sixteenth of an inch(0.009 feet) a year, however, in order to meet what the models say, the actual sea level rise would have to be 13/16″ or 0.067 feet per year) or about thirteen time the actual-current- rate.

then i explain that the client’s curb is at elevation -whatever it currenly is, and that the FEMA elevation for flood is- what that is (usually somewhere around 10-12) and that the building’s first floor is anywhere from 1 foot to 8 feet above the actual flood elevation depending on the site.

the response is typically “we trust the models”

Brian R Catt
April 21, 2020 1:04 pm

The fastest rise on record is 130 metres in 7ka. Thats about 20mm pa. But that requires about 8 degrees of global temperature perturbation applied steadily over 7Ka to achieve. Roughly 0.001 deg pa.

It is called the interglacial warming, and the last one started 17Ka ago, and is now about to start the slow return to glacial state. Also note that any such rise gets flat lined once the tropical oceans reach around 30 degrees and evaporation goes exponentially higher, so the annual climate change is mainly defined by the amount of rainfall, not the temperature change. If it gets hotter, the tropics widen. Which is why runaway can’t happen BTW, and never has. Oceans cover the planet. This controlling negative feedback by water vapour is massive compared to its relatively tiny GHE effect, and creates no additional heat, just changes the lapse rate a small amount..

Does that help?

April 21, 2020 1:13 pm

Spare a thought for San Fransisco back in the late 19th century-

1898-“San Francisco is sinking! This is the startling statement of the civil engineer who conducts the work of the City and County Surveyor’s office at the City Hall. Sinking, slowly but steadily, each recurring year bringing additional evidence that a large portion of the city would in a few decades be below the waters of the bay’

April 21, 2020 1:20 pm

PSMSL works better than NOAA for understanding relative and actual sea level rise. Where they are available, PSMSL provides the same tide gauge data as NOAA and also provides satellite elevation data (as well as N-S and E-W translation data) whereas NOAA does not. For Boston, the actual sea level rise when corrected for elevation changes is about 1.2 mm/yr with no sign of acceleration. That should be a relief to residents as it gives most of them a couple thousand years before the water reaches their doorstep.

Steve Case
April 21, 2020 1:23 pm

No acceleration of sea level rise for the Boston tide gauge
in fact, a little bit negative (-0.003 mm/yr²). By 2100 Boston should see about a foot of sea level rise.

April 21, 2020 1:53 pm

Anyone is rich enough to ignore non-existent sea level rises.

I mean it’s a report from the guardian, everyone was laughing at these ultra looney lefties back in the 1980s on the TV show “Yes Minister”. Nothing has changed in 40 years, the guardian is still a laughing stock.

Not that this is about sea levels, but it would be more interesting to see a report on the current flow/state of the BEAUFORT GYRE, and possible impacts on the climate of Europe when the flow reverses. Perhaps Anthony could dig something up. Thanks.

High Treason
April 21, 2020 2:16 pm

Al Gore , Tim Flannery and Greg Combet are 3 glaring examples of people who bang on about sea level rise, yet live on the waterside. Perhaps it was a con so they can pick up prime waterside real estate for much less than its real worth.
Like the terminally inaccurate COVID 19 modelling where the death rate is 1,000 times LESS than predicted, the same applies to the climate modelling. Climate hysteria was largely fuelled by predictions of cities being submerged- predictions of up to 90 metres! Even by exaggerated IPCC modelling it would be 40 cm. Reality will be closer to 150mm. 6 inches- not a problem, but 6 feet would be a minor problem. The difference is a factor of 12. It would be an interesting exercise to survey warmists and skeptics alike what they would predict as the sea level rise by 2100. It would be an easy enough study and have very interesting divergence between the 2 groups. The bell curves would be most interesting to view and would be very interesting to open up from a time capsule in year 2100.

Paul R Johnson
April 21, 2020 2:55 pm

“But Lendlease is embracing an approach more attuned to nature, one that leans upon the idea of living with the encroaching water rather than waging war against it – an ethos more common in the Netherlands or Venice than the US. ” ???

Clearly Oliver Milman knows nothing about the Dutch or the Venetians, who both have been waging fierce wars against encroaching waters for decades.

Reply to  Paul R Johnson
April 22, 2020 5:20 am

‘Fighting the water for decades”, make that millennia!

There is archeological evidence of dikes build in the northern part of the Netherlands (Friesland) around 100 CE i.e. in Roman times, probably in venice as well.
It is also estimated that the relative sea level since then has risen by about 2 meters, at least in the Netherlands which used to be (mostly) either floodplain, swamp or under the sea altogether.
It does take maintenance, cooperation and some large scale engineering though.

All the best,

April 21, 2020 5:45 pm

A meter sea level rise by 2070.

That is only a 500% increase on the present sea level rise. Sounds only slightly insane.

Walter Sobchak
April 21, 2020 9:42 pm

This just in:

“Bill and Melinda Gates Buy Oceanfront Home Near San Diego for $43 Million: The pair purchased the six-bedroom property in Del Mar, Calif., from Madeleine Pickens, the former wife of Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens” By Katherine Clarke | April 21, 2020

“The six-bedroom home spans about 5,800 square feet, according to the listing. It has a 10-person Jacuzzi overlooking a fire pit, a long oceanfront deck, limestone flooring, and a swimming pool.”

Andy Pattullo
April 22, 2020 12:40 pm

So if new developments raise their property grade an extra foot the buyers will have to wait more than 100 years for sea level to return to the current relative level. That really is scary. Not as scary as the number of people who believe this is a reason to abandon modern industrial society – but scary all the same.

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