Sea level rise in the Global South

One of my colleagues and fellow PhD candidate at UCLA, Emma Colven, is a critical political geographer through whom I learnt about the Great Garuda Project, the Indonesian government’s grand plan to defend Jakarta from sea level rise. It may also be described as a cynical ploy to attract direct foreign investment to a Dubai-style reclaimed island to rise ever so slightly above itself, as the city sinks into a chronically flooded, swampy mess, owing more to mismanagement and poor planning than to climate change.

Few things are certain about climate change. But one of those is sea level rise: because of thermal expansion alone, we know that the mean sea level will rise by at least 30 cm over the next century, and probably double that, or more. Computing an upper limit on SLR is hard because of local differences in isostatic uplift, groundwater withdrawal (which is actually Jakarta’s biggest problem), and the rate at which the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are melting (which is way more complicated a problem than it at first seems). Another important factor is actually river discharge, because the most vulnerable coastal cities tend to be built along and around major rivers. Flood damage resistance in coastal cities is just as much about managing the water that comes down behind the seawall as it is holding back the rising sea.

Even Rolling Stone is talking about it now.

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