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Instead, Jacob has said, the city will become a “gradual Atlantis.” The deluge will begin slowly, and irregularly, and so it will confound human perceptions of change.
Looking elsewhere, the blue covered parts of La Guardia and JFK airports, the Williamsburg waterfront, Roosevelt Island, and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Strauss told me that even the supposedly manageable increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius envisioned by the Paris Agreement would translate to around ten feet of eventual sea-level rise.
When I clicked up to ten feet, much of Battery Park City, the Lower East Side, and Brooklyn’s waterfront was submerged.
Now, a surge of six feet has a one percent chance of happening each year — it’s what climatologists call a “100 year” storm.
By 2050, if sea-level rise happens as rapidly as many scientists think it will, today’s hundred-year floods will become five times more likely, making mass destruction a once-a-generation occurrence.
“When I saw it, I said, ‘Oh, God, I can’t do this, this is against all my professional ethos,’ ” Jacob said.
“There are other considerations in life that enter into these decisions.We now know, without scientific question, that the Earth is warming fast, that 2016 is on pace to be the hottest year in the books, setting a record for the third year in a row. To begin to fathom what the future could hold for New York, I went to the Princeton office of a research organization called Climate Central, which has developed programs that map out sea-level projections.Climate scientist Ben Strauss set me up on the most advanced version, which uses 3-D Google Earth imagery, and apprised me of the latest gloomy research.“If you want to survive an earthquake, don’t buy a brownstone,” he once cautioned me, citing the catastrophic potential of a long-dormant fault line that runs under the city.When Mayor Bloomberg announced nine years ago an initiative to plant a million trees, Jacob thought, For the past 15 years or so, Jacob has been primarily preoccupied with a more existential danger: the rising sea.The ground floor of his quaint clapboard house was a jumble of furniture, and he pointed to a pen mark two feet up the wall — the height the water had reached.Many of those who lived around him fared worse; there were huge piles of debris up and down his street. ” Jacob’s personal disaster illustrated, in microcosm, how difficult it can be for anyone, even scientists, to pay heed to science.Klaus Jacob, a German professor affiliated with Columbia’s University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is a geophysicist by profession and a doomsayer by disposition.I’ve gotten to know him over the past few years, as I’ve sought to understand the greatest threat to life in New York as we know it.Policymakers may trumpet the Paris Agreement, signed this year, which aims to cut carbon emissions enough to hold global warming to a target of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial temperatures, but even if the accord succeeds, some change is “locked in,” because we’ve already spewed so much carbon into the atmosphere. Using a special 3-D mouse, I swooped like a drone over a familiar reference point at the corner of Canal and Varick Streets: the landmarked former industrial building that houses this magazine’s offices.Strauss added that in Antarctica, enormous glaciers appear to be melting faster than previously estimated, making the current worst-case projections look more and more like probabilities. With one foot of sea-level rise, the map didn’t change that much.