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Venice Battles Flooding Amid Highest Tide in 50 Years (nytimes.com)
164 points by lisper 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 191 comments



Maybe it's because I am Italian, but I am honestly shocked by the lack of empathy and blatant superficiality of some of the comments, especially given the usual insightfulness of HN.

There's the guy who's been to Venice "multiple times" who's explaining why it would be better if it sank. Another one had a conversation at a "dinner party about vacation homes" and how are a bad investment. The other: "Venice is Atlantis of the 21th century", and finally "they shouldn't have built Venice on 118 islands in the first place".

Venice is a real city, home to thousands of people that are currently struggling with the damage that all of this caused. Their businesses are threatened. An entire city and region is on its knees. It is a site of undescribable historical and artistic beauty, a treasure that belongs to all mankind.

Seriously, some of you might have been too deep into your ARR and TSLA and lost the ability to empathize.

Maybe this news doesn't belong on HN at all.


Anyone who think Venice shouldn't have been built on islands in the first place is ignorant of history. Since it was built on islands in the centuries after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, it had protection that other cities didn't have. People migrated to those islands to be able to live in peace and not be bothered. People criticizing that decision don't understand the circumstances under which it happened.

Those islands protected Venice from roaming armies looking to sack something and its separation from the mainland and reliance on a trading network also eventually led to it becoming a maritime trading power.

Even if they had somehow been able to foresee that the city would slowly be sinking a thousand or more years in the future, they still would have chosen the protection and eventual trade wealth that the location of Venice brought. They wouldn't have lived to see the sinking of the city anyway.

It makes me sad that such a city is slowly dying and I hope to visit before it is too late.


Sorry, no, Venice isn't what I'd call a real city. It's a tourist trap. AFAICT, the only people who sleep there are tourists. The "locals" who service the place commute from outside of the town.

When I went there I was at first enchanted by it, but as I did what I normally and go looking the social differences I didn't find it for a while - it is all shops, restaurants and hotels. So I kept walking. It was only one I was well out of the older parts, and well away from the tourists did I see the sorts of things I visit foreign places to experience. Things like a coffin being lifted down from a house window using a motorised ladder, a grocer in a largish boat overflowing with produce, stopping every so often to let the local women on.

I have no idea how these real places are fairing, but I suspect much better because the walls of the canals were higher.

As for the tourist trap that is the heart of Venice - this will just add to it's reputation. Parts of St Marks are under water every day. Walking through a church, a very well maintained and elegant church at that, and sitting on a pew wait the salt water lapping an inch or so below your bum is a novel experience. I heartily recommend it to everyone.

But once crass the commercialism of the place begins to grate take a walk to the real Venice, where the locals are born, marry and die. It's gritty, real and nowhere near as pretty, but I remember my walk through there far better than I remember Venice itself. I do hope the people who live there are OK.


> Sorry, no, Venice isn't what I'd call a real city. It's a tourist trap. AFAICT, the only people who sleep there are tourists. The "locals" who service the place commute from outside of the town.

Sorry but no. The entirety of my mother's family still lives there, in the "city" city. A lot of people still live and work in the inner Venezia. There are some commuters especially from Mestre, but that is what you expect with any medium sized center with satellite smaller towns around.

Also "Venice" is quite misleading because aside the usual tourist destinations, the city has quite a large horizontal development inland. You contraddict yourself stating first that Venice is only a tourist trap with no locals and then stating that you saw local women buy groceries, and inviting people to visit the "real" Venice, which of course you saw, which of course has a resident population.

Your vacation-long experience might not necessarily reflect the truth.


> The "locals" who service the place commute from outside of the town.

Fascinating.

> It was only one I was well out of the older parts, and well away from the tourists did I see the sorts of things I visit foreign places to experience.

Fascinating, you walked out of historical Venice (famously surrounded by lagoon) that has been mostly the same for centuries? Must have been a wet walk...

>I have no idea how these real places are fairing, but I suspect much better because the walls of the canals were higher.

Fascinating, you were carrying around an altimeter and doing measurements on the height of the water. Was it high tide? Spring tide? Do you even know what a spring tide is?

>It's gritty, real and nowhere near as pretty, but I remember my walk through there far better than I remember Venice itself.

So really, you walked out of St Marks and ended up in "real" Venice? It's the most famous city surrounded by water on Earth, did you think you were going to come on HN and make up lame bullshit?


This is literally just your opinion of a several centuries old city based on a day trip. The epitome of superficiality.

Even if your unfounded assumption that "the only people who sleep there are tourists" was true, you don't let a symbol of western civilization sink. Do we let the Colosseum fall? Does someone live in there? What was your reaction when Notre-Dame was burning? Should we care at all about preserving memory? Are these just stones?

While I must admit that is hard to see beyond fake Carnevale masks and other trinkets, I am afraid that in your trip you failed to perceive the greatness of the place you were visiting.


American here, and we say this about our own cities, an example of which is New Orleans. While I understand your emotional plea, the vast majority of people who do not own homes on a disaster zone do not wish to subsidize those who do. Not everyone is keen to throw endless money down a golden toilet.


I disagree, that might be true for USA, but there are many other examples where the vast majority of the population does in fact subsidize intervention in less fortunate areas. Take the Netherlands for example, the struggle against water has been a collective, charitable effort for centuries, and finally harmonized at the state level: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directorate-General_for_Publ...

Not everything needs to be done in the name of individual profit.

As a side note, using the term "golden toilet" for New Orleans, or Venice, or pretty much any other City in a difficult situation, doesn't certainly convey empathy as my initial comment wanted to point out.

So to each his own I guess.


You don’t live in a disaster zone until you do. I’m sure you think you would have had the foresight to see that this was coming a decade ago, but I sincerely doubt you did. Hindsight is 20/20.


Many people probably don't know that people fled to Venice to escape the Goths. Since then its charm has been open to all, even those without charm. (We call them trogs.) Many of us understand your loss, and hope that MOSE will bring relief from these miseries.


It's not about empathy, it's about realism and cost/benefit.

I, for one, am not against assistance to those that are loosing their home, but that assistance needs to be the most efficient one. Remember, any efforts and resources being spent assisting this particular situation will be taken from some other issue yah needs them. At what point does one say it's not worth it?

Venice is a beautiful city full of art and culture, but at this point it's fall seems inevitable. It's sad, but it's the way of the world, things rise, flourish and eventually fall.


But it's YOUR city, why aren't YOU saving it? It's been known for ages that Venice will sink unless "something is done about it" but nothing has ever been done about it. As a tourist I've seen lots of amazing art and artifacts everywhere in Italy but a lot of it is left to wither. No one seem to be interested in taking care of it.


You could say the same about climate change. It's a collective mistake, everybody knows about it, yet we can't fix it.

It's YOUR planet, why aren't YOU saving it? As an earthling I've seen a lot of amazing nature everywhere on earth but a lot of it is left to wither. No one seem to be interested in taking care of it.

We are hopeless in long term thinking.


The Earth is a progressively changing place ever since its formation it's been changing how long are we supposed to try to hold Earth at "normal" "correct" levels? Climate change is most probably natural at maximum accelerated a slight amount it was always going to happen.


"Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it." — Mahatma Gandhi


Fighting climate change requires global coordination. Saving Venice requires national coordination and therefore should be far easier to achieve.


"Italy has also invested billions of euros in a flood-protection system known by the acronym MOSE, but its offshore underwater dams have yet to be completed."


The MOSE project is supposed to protect Venice from high tides, with mobile barriers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOSE_Project

Unfortunately it's been under planning first and then construction for decades, mired by corruption scandals, delays, and billions of Euros in cost overruns. It's currently scheduled to be delivered by the end of 2021, having first been put out to tender in 1975.



31 December 2021 is the official deadline. http://www.ansa.it/sito/notizie/flash/2019/09/12/-mose-conse...


I hear some people saying that by the time it's built, rising sea levels may have already obsoleted it.


Venice was built on marshy landfill in a lagoon and has sunk 23cm in the last century. This is the main problem here. It will continue sinking and there's no way to make that stop as you can't build stable foundations under an entire stone city built in the actual sea on top of mushy mud and not anything stable. Venice is and always has been inevitably doomed due to poor engineering choices made centuries ago. Same goes for much of New Orleans.


Interesting. It looks like the sea level has also risen by about 17.5cm in the last century - https://www.epa.gov/climate-indicators/climate-change-indica...


The fear is that the gates will need to be closed too often and for too long, damaging the lagoon’s ecosystem: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07372-3


I hate sharing FB but this is where we can see some recent pics and videos as posted by Venitians today https://www.facebook.com/1292366660/posts/10215308807895434/


And here [1] you can see what the region would look like with rising coastlines, based on a Climate Central interactive map (which can be used for any global coastal city).

1 - https://ss2.climatecentral.org/index.html#8/44.984/11.272


Interesting, but a bit deceiving. When selecting "current coast" it shows the current coastlines, but selecting even a single foot of sea level rise it draws the new coast respecting the actual elevation. The problem with this is that in several places, for example around Venice and in the Netherlands, the land is already below the sea level, so they appear to flood even with a single inch of water. Which is not the case.


I was a dinner party when the topic of vacation homes comes came up. We were all young professionals in tech so a vacation home in middle age was not out of the question.

When I mentioned my reluctance to invest in beach front property everyone seemed confused -- I don't own a home yet but it makes me wonder, how much is climate change being considered as a factor for family real estate? I'm sure commercial developers are taking these things into account but are normal people?


We looked into it when we were considering the future of my mom's summer cottage (~10 feet above sea level, ~200 yards from beach, main road floods @ 4.5 feet, been in her family since 1955). My sister's a geologist so she has access to all sorts of topological maps and climate models. Ultimately, though, the worst climate models show about 18 inches of sea level rise over the next century, so it wasn't a serious consideration. I'd be much more worried about more severe storms, but it's not in an area with significant hurricane risk.


There's a few other factors and I'd be worried about the combination of them more than any single one. Depending in location and geography and timing you can easily lose a couple of feet by an exceptionally high tide, sea level is the average of high tide marks and not the highest it can get. Even in inland areas well above sea level this can affect drainage and cause flooding. Then you've got large waves that can be whipped up by a regular storm or a hurricane, these can easily go another couple of feet above the current tide level and just standing ankle deep in water like that isn't the safest thing in the world. Then there's things like rainwater flooding that can come from inland, depending on geography and rain that can be negligible or huge.

But if the high tide and waves alone conspire then you might only have 6 feet of storm surge buffer. With an 18 inch sea level rise that's down to 4.5 feet.

Even without that erosion can do a lot of damage without expensive remediation.


Insurance companies in particular would be interesting to watch, since they're focused on risk management and have a lot of skin in the game.

How are they reacting?


Subsidized by your taxes via the National Flood Insurance Program (edit: speaking US-centrically here)

https://www.independent.org/news/article.asp?id=10524

> “The potential losses generated by NFIP have created substantial financial exposure for the federal government and U.S. taxpayers,” the U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded in a February 2013 report to Congress. “While Congress and FEMA intended that NFIP be funded with premiums collected from policyholders and not with tax dollars, the program was, by design, not actuarially sound.”

> In 2012, in an attempt to provide some financial stability to the ailing NFIP, which was $20 billion in debt at the time, Congress required FEMA to phase out many of the subsidized policies in order to more accurately reflect cost and risk. Existing policyholders naturally balked at paying the higher premiums, however, and the backlash was strong enough that politicians quickly caved and rescinded the requirements, restoring the grandfathering of subsidized policies and capping premium increases.

tl;dr: Beachfront property owners don't want to pay for their own flood insurance, so you get to pay for it instead. In October 2017 the government wrote off $16 billion of that debt, and as of February 2018 it was still in debt to the tune of $20.5 billion.

Thanks to these subsidies, people will keep rebuilding in the same idiotic places knowing that it will flood again, which is fine because you're paying for the bulk of their insurance.


I think if the insurance wasn't subsidized, the (massive) values of those beachfront properties would collapse. With that, the tax revenues derived from that would sink beneath the waves, which would bankrupt local and possibly state governments. From what I understand those subsidies are what's keeping Florida from becoming a failed state.


If that's the justification, would it would be cheaper to stop throwing the money away over and over on rebuilding in flood areas and just subsidize Florida directly?


Or would it be cheaper to stop throwing money away and let Florida become a failed state and restructure to some new stable configuration (presumably with a much lower population)?


Wouldn't other luxury housing increase in value though? It's not like the rich people are going stop having vacation homes.


If you're a beachfront town, you don't care much that rich people are now buying vacation homes in the mountains. Your economy is still ruined.


> tl;dr: Beachfront property owners don't want to pay for their own flood insurance, so you get to pay for it instead. In October 2017 the government wrote off $16 billion of that debt, and as of February 2018 it was still in debt to the tune of $20.5 billion.

The NFIP insures millions of properties, like mine, that are nowhere near a beach.


Are the premiums as artificially low in non-costal areas? I’ve been under the impression that most of our increasing flood risks over recent decades are in hurricane areas, but I do know we had pretty bad flooding in the Midwest this year too. Is that the new normal?


FEMA sent us the NFIP claim history when we bought the house, and based on the amount paid out and risk of recurrence, versus the premium we pay, I think our premium is fair. Interestingly, despite being inland in New Jersey the two claims correlate with two hurricane strikes (Floyd and Sandy). The river we are on is pretty small and only rises when there is heavy rain (and starts falling almost as soon as the rain stops).


For the house I recently purchased, it's a little over 1% of the house value every year, based on reconstruction cost and flood zone classification. Is it artificially low? I don't think so, at leaat for my circumstances.


Good question. What may happen - possibly relatively soon - is that banks will refuse to provide mortgages over a certain length of time for certain property. Property which is not mortgageable will take a serious haircut in its value. Very quickly, those properties will become “stranded assets”. What will be the likely policy response? I suspect governments might step in with insurance and guarantees. Why? Because in the Anglo world, our economies and arguably culture (ref your dinner party conversation) are organized around increases in house prices, not their collapse. Governments are always pumping house prices ever higher to inject “feel good” into the economy. The parallel is a bitcoin whale, especially in the UK.


Similar experience - I was recently at a neighborhood get-together and discussion came up around how everyone was benefiting from property price rises and considering second homes (rentals, batches/holiday homes).

It weirded me out but for a different reason: I couldn't avoid thinking about income inequality and dropping home ownership among younger generations in our country. Having a discussion about acquiring additional properties to seek rental income or to sit vacant for the majority of the year, and not factoring in that big issue, just didn't sit right with me. Not wanting to derail the mood or upset my neighbors, I just didn't actively participate. But I've been stewing on it for days since.

Back on the topic of waterfront real estate, there have been some really interesting articles linked on HN recently about Miami's situation - seemingly irrational activity happening in a city facing straight into the threat of rising ocean levels: https://popula.com/2019/04/02/heaven-or-high-water/


You don’t have to worry. The government will bail you out like they do the people who build in forest fire land and in flood plains.

EDIT: I don't think I'm wrong actually. Take Pacifica, CA for instance. Local homeowners oppose managed retreat and will ask the government to perform coastline erosion control.


And yet, elsewhere someone posted a link to an article about how three large apartment buildings have already been torn down in Pacifica. The ocean doesn't care much about city policy. Eventually it's going to be untenable to resist no matter how wealthy you are.


Oh, and we didn't pay them off via some national insurance program? I'm surprised and somewhat impressed. I'd expect those parties to have required the government to pay out.


Shoreline erosion is already concern for any waterfront property, and there are already devastating hurricanes and weather events they have to prepare for. From what I've seen, the owners of these properties are up to speed on the challenges the properties face. If there's damage, they repair it, it's just the cost of living next to the water.


In Florida, the entire first floor cannot be covered by flood insurance. Most homes do not have basements as you cannot dig down to create one. Most 1st floors of nicer homes are essentially a finished basement and posts to support the rest of the building and the main floor starts on the 2nd level.

During a hurricane, you assume everything on the first floor to be a loss so usually people may have their pools, have granite/tile flooring and do not have carpet etc so that way after a flood/hurricane it's easy to clean/fix up.


This comment sounds somewhat strange to me. If you don't mind me asking, where are/were you living in Florida where this is the case? I have lived in South Florida for 25 years, residing in areas around Martin County, Port St Lucie, West Palm Beach, and Tallahassee. Most of my vacations were spent at friends houses in Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and even Marathon Key.

Most houses I have lived in, and the houses my peers owned, were all one story houses. Those who lived in what insurances labels as "known flood zone" areas still had carpet, and the houses are decorated no differently than the houses I have seen in California when I lived there, as well as Michigan where I currently live.

We also were able to enroll in flood insurance without any issues. Granted, it's extra insurance on top of typical home owners insurance, but Allstate had no issues providing us with flood insurance for over two decades of living there.

Is this perhaps how the more wealthy people live, or is this maybe how a specific area lives? I have legitimately never heard of people purposely furnishing their first floor as if it were a basement. I have seen the trend of moving away from carpet, but that is a more general trend that I am observing here in MI, as well, so I am not entirely sure it is can be directly linked to home owners worrying about potential flooding.


It was in a more affluent area of Ft. Myers where most homes were north of $750k on canals that go to the gulf. I apologize for not responding earlier, usually after 3-4 posts I end up being throttled where it says, "You are posting too much please slow down" and then I have to wait until the next day.


The point about insurance is not accurate. In some low-lying areas, these statements are accurate, but even in coastal areas it is far more common to have a finished 1st floor with the standard insurance rules. It all depends on the flood/evacuation zones.


That sounds like a smart way to engineer homes in flood prone areas.


Alternatively, don’t live in Florida.


Also this only applied in an area along the Gulf Coast, if you live further inland you may be able to get insurance that covers the first floor, but I have no idea.

I do agree though, I like to visit Florida here and there but I would never want to live there permanently.


This has become standard fare up and down the East Coast.


I think shoreline erosion is a good example of what will happen.

An apartment building just south of SF was recently condemned and torn down because the cliff it sits on is slowly falling into the ocean.[1]

[1]https://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-pacifica-apartm...

eloff 29 days ago [flagged]

The sea level rise is slow enough, at less than 1cm per year projected average to 2100, that it doesn't have a material affect on your decision, unless the land is freakishly flat and low (like a sand atoll somewhere) So respectfully, I think your aversion is more emotional than logical.

Lots of emotional down-voting going on. I'm still right.


Please don't break the site guidelines by going on about downvotes: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

(Secondarily: language like "your aversion is more emotional than logical" is best avoided on HN too. I appreciate your intention to be respectful, but it's still a gratuitously personal comment. If you converted it to an actually respectful expression of the point, you wouldn't need to label it "respectfully".)


It's a statement of fact, if my reasoning holds. I agree I could have made my point without making it personal though. It's offensive in the same manner as saying your religion is a lie (also a statement of fact, but not one that will win any friends.)


Yes, it will be slow. My family has a guest house on the beach. It's on short (5 ft) hill about 30 ft back from the ocean. The back sits on the hill and the front is help up by support beams. The yard is barely (1-2ft) above the average high tide mark. I was visiting during a storm and was in the guest house looking out of the window and it dawned on me that if (when) we get a bad-enough storm during a high-neap-tide, the support beams holding up the front room be washed ou. It would only be partial damage, and most people would probably consider it a "once in a 100 year storm", so I'm sure the damage would be repaired. With sea level rise, a 1:100 year storm will quickly become more like 1:50 or less, then 1:20, then 1:10, etc. At some point, we (or future owners) will give up rebuilding. If you only want a small get-away cottage on the water, then I'm sure sea level rise will be slow enough that you'll be fine. If you want a home on the water that you can pass onto your kids or grand-kids as a family investment, then I'd stay away.... or at least, consider the geology/topography/distance to the water.


That’s not how it works. That’s why you are getting downvoted.

Firstly the rise is not the same everywhere - some places will have vastly higher sea levels. Secondly Venice didn’t suddenly get flooded by going from from 0cm too high to 1cm too high this year; the issue with climate change is not just the level but also the highs from more energetic, wetter storms etc.


No, I'm still right. It is true some places will have more rise, but also some places will have lower rise. Also storms are not getting noticeably stronger either, that's just as slow. Really you can buy ocean front property, and the concerns are more to do with local tides and weather and topography than anything to do with climate change. Cost will still be the primary concern, beachfront property is not cheap. The local issues dwarf climate change to the point that it likely doesn't even feature in your final decision, if you're being logical and not emotional.


In my work with climate data, scientists in my cohort are instructing caution that many (linear) models are incorrect, and those are the figures you quote (1cm/year sea-level rise). However, not only have past sea-level rise projections been incorrectly low(1), but tropical storms/hurricanes have become measurably more frequent, more powerful, and slower(2), which also causes increased flooding. So, even if your beachfront property is not at increased risk from sea level rise, there is an increased risk of flooding and storm-surge exposure (in some places).

When I was attempting to establish historical storm trends for the Florida Keys in the early 18th century (for an archaeological study), one colleague suggested I not use post-2004 data, because the warming of the oceans was skewing everything from mean wind directions to the number of hurricanes to the current patterns. The costs associated with beachfront property are also rising, due to the insurance industry's discomfort with the risks and the additional maintenance costs(3). Even the US's National Flood Insurance Program is increasing the charges of its subsidized coastal insurance products(4), because private industry deems many coastal properties uninsurable.

So, I gotta ask: On what data are you basing your opinions?

1) https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12808-z 2) https://www.theguardian.com/weather/ng-interactive/2018/sep/... 3) https://www.allpropertymanagement.com/blog/post/what-climate... 4) https://www.gulfshoreinsurance.com/summary-of-nfip-program-c...


I'm looking at the same data as you, and agree with your points. It's possible sea level could rise faster, but even at worst case protections climate change probably doesn't make the top ten factors when considering a specific property.

If the property is so vulnerable to rising sea levels or storm surge, it is going to be vulnerable with and without climate change. Climate change itself doesn't seem to change the calculus much.


In financial markets, expectations of future gain and loss impacts pricing today.

In exactly the same manner expectations that the future value of real estate may be impacted by climate change should be reflected in the price today. Even if the house I buy today does not flood in 20 years (my lifetime), in 20 years I will have to sell to someone who will have an investment horizon of 40 years from today (my 20 years, plus their hypothetical 20 years). Since that person may demand a lower price from me in 20 years, I should factor that into the price I pay today, since it effects my returns.

As a real example, I factored in expected flood insurance pricing rises on some riverfront property I purchased recently in Australia. The insurance price increases are driven by industry and government modelling to reflect tropical storm intensity and frequency and an increased risk that storm surges overlap high tides. Sea level rises contribute to the risk, but not in a meaningful level.

The end result was that my total cost of ownership increased by single digit %. I reduced my bid price accordingly to meet my % return requirement from the investment.

To put it concretely - my future expectation of increased climate-driven risk reduced the value of the asset to me.

Your confidence is misplaced, and your condescension is irksome.


Your confidence is misplaced. For example, improving the reliability of measurement indicates storms are in fact getting stronger. https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2019/11/05/1912277116


That's in terms of damage, not strength. Huge difference, depending on what we build and where. Although I'm not denying storms are getting stronger, it's slowly, just like sea level rise.

I wouldn't buy waterfront property in Florida, but mostly for the problems inherit with doing that today, not because of future climate change.


A difference of even 2 feet makes a difference across huge swaths of US beachfront property. A storm surges can get up to 34.8 feet at current sea levels. Moving that to 36.8 would both more frequently destroy structures within 35’ of sea level, and B put massive numbers of new buildings at risk.


Right, the rising average sea AND the rising weather/atmospheric energy combine to make formerly rare flooding events more common.

Eg Wall Street flooded during Sandy.


You just classified the difference in storm surge as 6%. That is too small to be a defining part of your final decision.


People want to build as close to the ocean as they can, they also want to build in a safety factors After all that 34.8’ is the highest level ever recorded. Is 30’ is good enough how about 25’? And when you go down that road it gets very non linear with 10’ being almost worthless and 40’ near total protection from storm surges.

Thus it’s not a question of absolute levels, but rather safety factors and insurance premiums that are at issue.

PS: Though this is simplified as it’s both storm surge and high waves that cause problems, but that’s another story.


If you're making any decision with only 6% tolerances on one side and vague things like storms and tides on the other, you're in trouble.

I just don't see that as making the difference in a decision to buy or not buy. I don't even see it making the list of things to weigh.


Ahh, you’re still thinking if that as 6%. Hatteras NC is 50 miles long generally less than a mile wide and the absolutely highest point is 56’ above sea level. More topically for these islands Nags Head, North Carolina averages 3’ above sea level at high tide. People build everything on stilts and It’s simply accepted that it’s all temporary at some level.

As the barrier islands essentially make up the only beach front property across half of North Carolina, that’s the only real option for vacation homes like this. That and fishing support a relatively small population, but the total investment on these islands adds into the billions.

In that context 2’ means far more than a 6% difference. Little there can withstand a cat 4+ hurricane even without the ocean, however slowly loosing inches is already making a difference.


Well 2ft of 3ft is no longer 6%, that's a material difference that matters if you want to buy there.

What I would consider is what it would cost to raise the land by that 2ft. I think that's so little by comparison to what the land costs that you can practically discount the effect of climate change on your decision.

People hated on all of my comments in this entire thread, but at the end of the day I put my faith in the math and I think they're all wrong and I'm right.


You're not right. You have neglected to consider the impact of tides, because the 1cm rise in average sea level is not evenly distributed.


Which means it also has to be less in some places, and those places would be slightly more attractive. So use that projected tidal value if you want when weighing your decision. Factor in stronger storms if you want as well.

Ocean front property is so expensive that if you do that and add the cost of raising your construction on stilts and/or raising the land to compensate, it barely makes a difference.



Could Venice be raised, as Chicago once was? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raising_of_Chicago


It might be feasible, but I doubt the Italian government has the organizational ability to rally scientists and engineers around it. (I'm Italian, it's IMHO, but I speak with some past experience).


Miami in 10 years, San Francisco in 25.


Not entirely. Miami was built on porous limestone. The water comes up from the bottom, not the sides.

SF is mountainous. Some parts may go under but most of SF will remain dry.


This sea level map suggests that very little of SF would be underwater even with a 9ft increase in sea level. I was kind of surprised.[1]

[1]https://ss2.climatecentral.org/index.html#12/37.7426/-122.42...


The whole city doesn't have to flood for things to get pretty grim. As an example, take a look at Pacifica, which also shows very little flooding on that map, yet has already had to start demolishing buildings as coastal cliffs erode. Also, if you look down the peninsula, heavily populated areas start to look pretty wet pretty fast. That's not going to be good for the area as a whole.


Have you looked at San Francisco’s topography? It isn’t flat....all of the west coast cities are pretty safe.


Yeah, I live here. :-) You're right that most of the city is at a pretty good elevation and won't be directly affected in the sense of getting flooded.

But if the Embarcadero floods that's billions of dollars worth of damage right there. Same for China Basin / Mission Bay area around Mission Creek. That's got a baseball stadium, the major train depot for the city (CalTrain terminus), and a bunch of new multi-story condos and UC Mission Bay they just finished. It's going to suck if that area gets flooded, the sidewalks around the new condos are already cracking due to subsidence. ( https://www.sfgate.com/local/article/sidewalk-sinking-missio... )


Mission Bay, South Beach and parts of SOMA, and most of the Financial District, not to mention the waterfront, are threatened by sea level rise. That's why the city has been [endlessly] debating plans for reinforcing and expanding the sea walls. Newer developments, like in Mission Bay, have been required to elevate the grade, AFAIU.


Topography?


Fixed, thanks.


Miami in 10 I can see - but San Fran? Seems like it has enough elevation to weather sea level rise of a few meters.


Why has the title been changed from "Venice Battles Flooding Amid Highest Tide in 50 Years" to "Venice Floods Because of Highest Tide in 50 Years"?

It hasn't flooded because of the record tide. I thought for a moment this meant that the barrage had been completed but was today overwhelmed.


The NYT changed the headline after the story was submitted. (I'm the original submitter.)


Ah. I should have suspected that and phrased my query accordingly. Apologies for any slight on your good name.


No worries :-)


NYT is known for doing that.


It's not a record.


[flagged]


The city in Italy.


Duh


Could you please stop posting unsubstantive comments to Hacker News?


[flagged]


It happened only once in 1966, but that's for the most part irrelevant. The frequency of high tides is increasing at an alarming rate.

Source: https://www.comune.venezia.it/it/content/distribuzione-annua...


He knows enough. Higher tides are predicted and have been observed worldwide because of icepack melting and thermal expansion of water. So, whether or not the mayor has scientific qualifications, he is correct.

xvx 29 days ago [flagged]

Maybe don't build a city on 118 small islands and expect the water levels to never ever change? Seems more like a failure to plan for the future.


"Please don't post shallow dismissals, especially of other people's work. A good critical comment teaches us something."

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html


Karma Police... arrest this man!


I agree, building a city on 118 small islands is clearly a terrible idea, that's why the city has such a terrible tourism industry today and why during the middle ages it was such an unknown backwater that never played an important role in politics of the day.

It's honestly not unreasonable to say "Oh hey the place you built a city is no longer cost sustainable" but there are multitudes of villages and towns in europe, the fact that we know about Venice today and don't know about Ormelle (a random village north of Venice) means there were some reasons for that particular location to prosper.

Lastly, we've got the hand we've been dealt and I think it's quite reasonable to try and preserve this historical city even knowing that is it in a vulnerable location, that isn't really a global decision but it is going to be influenced by how many people still find it worth the money to visit.


Well, in the middle ages, Venice had no objection to fixing flooding by piling a few more layers of stone and wood onto an existing (sunken) structure and using it as a foundation. And a few hundred years later, doing it again. It didn't used to be a static city.

But now that the structures are considered historical and preserved, they're trying to maintain a particular snapshot of the city, with the exact same buildings. Which is a lot harder than maintaining the city overall.


I imagine this was said in jest. But it's worth mentioning that Venice has sunk almost 10 inches in the last century. Even if water levels hadn't changed -- and of course they have -- Venice would still be facing serious problems.


I don't think it's in jest, and I actually agree with that statement to an extent.

If humans weren't polluting the atmosphere, the climate would still be changing. The only difference is time scale and possibly the temperature delta.

This is why building cities right up against the shoreline isn't a very good idea in the long term. And, no, you can have ports without building metropolises right next to the water. Someone's going to say that I'm a "climate denier" which is totally false because I believe in anthropogenic global warming.


Cities evolve organically. There is no "Mr City" who mistakenly places cities too close to the shoreline. Businesses naturally accrete around ports until the mass of buildings and workforce forms a city.


Ports are critical infrastructure, and cities evolve around ports. The world's great natural harbors/ports almost always have large cities built around them (NY, SF, Sydney, PRD, etc).


The difference in time scale is crucial though. For the past 2000 years, sea level hadn't changed much at all[1]. If the city has to move to adapt to changing coastlines, it can probably manage the move over millennia.

With climate change, we're looking at drastic coastline changes over the next 100 years. 100 years is extremely short for cities - it probably takes about that to go from being a town to being a city, if you have excellent growth rates.

To move a city in 100 years is probably flat-out impossible, just for cost reasons alone. Most cities are hard-pressed to pay for maintenance of roads and essential services, and service their already crushing debt levels. City governments are not going to manage it, which means the citizens of the cities are going to shoulder the costs. We're going to see large-scale financial hardship in coastal cities going forward, and multiple cities going bankrupt and into decline.

[1] https://ocean.si.edu/through-time/ancient-seas/sea-level-ris...


See also: Sacramento, which dealt with frequent winter/spring flooding back when it was first founded because the founders built the city right up against the river. The city adapted by effectively converting all the first floors into basements and raising the city's "ground" (most of it all got filled in with dirt or otherwise lost with time, but some of it's still preserved in the so-called "Old Sacramento Underground").

Venice will likely have to take similarly-drastic measures, and they're a lot harder to take given that modern-day Venice is much bigger than 1850's-1860's Sacramento.


Scale is also the only difference between a beautiful snowflake and a terrifying avalanche. It's the difference between drinking a refreshing glass of water and being waterboarded.

Scale matters a lot.


I really like these analogies. You are so right.


It would be more accurate to say "Don't build your city on a river delta or flood plain", but that's where the good soil is. It's also hard to go back in time hundreds of years to yell at your ancestors.


Nor would a city not built in the delta be Venice. Venice is Venice because it was built where it wasn't supposed to be!


This is a rather ignorant comment. Venice was built many centuries ago before they ever thought about things like long-term climate changes, soil subsistence (i.e., the city sinking over time), etc. And it was a very successful city precisely because of its location: port cities are almost always prone to flooding due to being close to sea level, but humans built them because shipping was the primary method of trade from the time the boat was invented up to the invention of the railroad, so port cities frequently became very wealthy due to all the trade going through them. People 1500 years ago had no idea that cities might sink, and they sure as hell couldn't anticipate climate change caused by everyone driving carbon-spewing cars around the planet in the 20th century and beyond.


You hop in your time machine back to the 7th Century and tell them that.


I just imagine this commenter standing there smugly "yes, I contributed. snort I mean WHY would anyone build a PORT city on the WATER??"


Indeed. Yet this port city with almost no land ruled over quite a significant empire for about 1000 years. I think it’s had a good run.


[flagged]


Personal attacks will get you banned here. Will you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and stick to the rules so we don't have to ban you again?


You know I meaningfully contribute more than most people here, right?


That's great! But it's not enough to contribute positive things; you also need to not contribute negative things. It is like society: good deeds don't mean you can break laws.

Another factor too: people tend to overestimate the value of their positive contributions and underestimate the damage of their negative ones. Probably by an order of magnitude in both directions, in which case many of us are adding a hundred times less value than we imagine, if we're adding value at all.


See also: the Netherlands, a country in ruins. /s

Frankly the problem with Venice is not where it's built or climate change. The problem is that Italy has become a country living by the day and entirely unable to discuss and plan and act seriously for the future (or the present, for that matter).

The MOSE project that should have saved Venice from the high tides has been discussed for almost thirty years before even starting the construction, which then proceeded at snail pace with stops and go, lack of funding, corruption, and political quarrels.

Nature has never been benign. There are countries that are organized and efficient and dominate it- see the Netherlands. There are others that spend time in squabbles and suffer from each flood, storm or earthquake- see Italy.


Having been to Venice multiple times, I have somewhat of a contrarian view: even if the entire city were underwater, it wouldn’t really change much. Venice as an actual place to live died decades ago. It’s nothing more than Disneyland at this point.

If it found itself under the Adriatic in 50 years, I imagine it would simply become an underwater Disneyland. The architecture might actually be better preserved for future generations; for example, had Venice sunk prior to the mid-80’s, there wouldn’t be a McDonald’s there (yup, there’s a McDonald’s in Venice.)


Venice is actually a great place to live if you don't prioritize for comfort but appreciate other aspects of life.

I guess it really depends on each person but not having cars really makes up for many other disadvantages.

Which makes you think how bad cars in the city are in general.

You don't really appreciate this until they are gone.


Oh I think the idea of Venice is brilliant. Historically it must have been incredible, when the palaces were actually in use and not simply museums. But at this point the entire economy of the city is based on tourism. Any trace of authentic life sunk a long time ago.


I can understand it feels like this, but I assure real people live and work there, and there is a real local culture and authentic life.

I lived there and I lived in many other cities like Paris, London, Munich, Krakow, Bangkok and Bali.

Venice is one of the most authentic cities of them all.

The language is alive and evolving.

It's a bit like the fight club, real locals recognize each others, while the tourists think it's just a Disneyland.

Quite fascinating!


Peoples' "authentic life" is finding a job, finding housing, finding a school for the kids, interacting with neighbors, dealing with trash pickup and water bills, etc. A tourist can never experience that. Even if you experience the flooding with real Venetians, you're not going to deal with the water damage for weeks afterward, or attempting to get insurance claims paid. But that's "authentic life."

Charming restaurants, quirky bookshops, etc., that's not "authentic life." That's frivolity. Sharing frivolities with the locals doesn't give you any insight into their "authentic life." Tourism is always Disneyland. It's always fake. It's just different versions of Disneyland for people of different temperaments.

(It's funny you mention Bangkok. I was born in Bangkok. What exactly is less "authentic" about it than Venice? How can a city even be less "authentic" than another city?)


Au contraire: fantasy and frivolity are essential to an "authentic life". Regardless of where you were born and what station you were born into.


I can confirm. When my wife was working at the University of Padova, she had a colleague from Venice. We'd go visit him once in a while and he'd show us around some of the more 'normal people' places. I mean, yes, it's very touristy, but "real people" do live there.


Where is the city called Bali?


I meant Bali the island, sorry


When I visited Venice, around 15 years ago, at first I was not impressed. I'd seen the fake version at a theme park, and somehow it felt like more of the same.

But then I saw a couple traces of authentic life. We ran into a local walking her dog, and my friend (who speaks fluent Italian) chatted her up. On one of the smaller canals I saw a road sign -- not seemingly aimed at tourists or even gondoliers, but at ordinary Venetians trying to get around.

All of a sudden, the whole city felt amazing.


> Venice is actually a great place to live if you don't prioritize for comfort but appreciate other aspects of life.

Perhaps, if you're prioritizing access to hordes of tourists.


You live with what you have. Tourists are both invading and bringing money, both a curse and a blessing.

Some cultures seem more fit than others to deal with it.

Some are overwhelmed, others learn to manage.


Right -- and I would absolutely put Venice in the overwhelmed category. When I travel I try to experience the local culture as much as possible and I simply wasn't able to find it in Venice. I walked around the city for hours (which is a lot, Venice is very small) and the parts that weren't overwhelmed with tourists or part of the university were completely lifeless.

Most of the locals live on the mainland, anyways. Venice itself is a living museum at best.


And yet there it was, right in front of your eyes, right in the middle of the tourists.

When I walk in Venice I constantly meet locals I know, going around their daily life.

It's hard to see this unless you are with some of them.

And even if you see it, it won't tell you anything unless you are part of it.

It's fascinating to see how two different "species" of animals coexist and barely interact on a meaningful level.

I'm not saying it's a good situation but it's not a living museum, people live, work, love and fight there.

We can't dismiss them because we don't see them.


I believe that they exist. It's just Venice ranks shockingly low on the list of cities I would like to live in given it's cultural and historical significance.

You say there are other priorities that make Venice attractive -- like what? You still haven't made that clear. The nice parts of the city are completely given over to tourism, the hidden corners feel abandoned and listless.


I guess it's subjective but here's my list:

- no cars. This alone raises the quality life by an amazing degree.

- 100% walkable.

- you meet people you know all the time. Feels like a village.

- international. Many interesting characters live there. A village but an international one.

- beautiful and decadent.

And of course there's also a long list of negatives such as expensive, uncomfortable, wet, touristy etc....


You could argue that it's becoming like Pompei, but for sure it's nothing like Disneyland.


Side note: if anyone does go to Venice and finds the McDonalds, walk straight behind it down the alleyway, there’s an amazing, reasonably priced restaurant right behind it. Their meatballs are fantastic (not spaghetti meatballs, just meatballs), along with everything else.

It’s called Cà D'Oro alla Vedova. We were shown it by a local, only realised McDonalds was near it after we finished eating.


>yup, there’s a McDonald’s in Venice

Imagine, a place to eat in Venice that isn't a rip-off tourist trap restaurant. Free toilets as well!


What's wrong with McDonalds? McDonalds is great. Disneyland is also great. Have you ever been to Disneyland? People love Disneyland.


"What's wrong with McDonalds?"

Arguably its bad food. Anyways its mass produced food that has no attachment to the place where it is consumed (outside the USA). Food, like the appreciation of a city, has a cultural aspect that McDonald's lacks.

McDonal's for someone visiting Europe makes no sense at all. You've dropped a few thousand in airfare and hotels, now you're being cheap on the food?? (Here I make an exception for Europeans eating McDonalds. They live there, they know their culture and their food. Go ahead stuff your pie holes just for the purpose of filling your bellies).

"Disneyland is also great."

idem for Disneyland. It's a fake image of a medieval utopia that never existed even in fairy tales. It's purpose is to create value to the Disney brand by becoming, through sheer force of the ubiquity of the Disney company, a part of children's childhood replacing real experiences and the myths handed down through generations. You don't learn anything at Disneyland, you do not grow as a person at Disney because there is no substance to Disneyland.

At best you have "fun", whatever that means. More likely you're told you had fun, and you repeat that to yourself to avoid admitting you mostly just waited in line.

Venice as Disneyland is a place where hoards of bucketlisters checkoff yet another selfie at Piazza San Marco (or is Piazza Spagna? who remembers? who cares!?), not for the San Marco's sake, but to pretend they accomplished something merely by buying a cheap ticket and airbnb.

You made it to Venice! Big deal! How hard is that?

No. A person who wakes up 4:00am to make it to San Marco at dawn to see San Marco alone has accomplished something (albeit small). A person who goes to Venice and doesn't go to Piazza San Marco, but instead spends the whole time alleys long forgotten by the hoard has accomplished something.


One reason to go to McDonald's while traveling is so you can discover the differences in each country's McDonald's. As a Philadelphian I have my own version of this, living in California -- I'll always order a cheesesteak if it's on the menu, the first time I'm at a restaurant. Just to see how good/bad it is.


McDonal's for someone visiting Europe makes no sense at all.

McDonalds is better and cheaper than a lot of the overpriced, crappy food in Europe.

It's a fake image of a medieval utopia that never existed even in fairy tales.

That's quite a high horse you rode in on.


> No. A person who wakes up 4:00am to make it to San Marco at dawn to see San Marco alone has accomplished something (albeit small). A person who goes to Venice and doesn't go to Piazza San Marco, but instead spends the whole time alleys long forgotten by the hoard has accomplished something.

They’ve accomplished nothing the person who went to Disneyland didn’t accomplish. There is no value in doing something just because it’s different from what “the hoard” is doing. (Indeed, if you’re going one way while everyone else is going the other way, you’re probably the one who is lost.)


I think I might have a picture of that McDonald's sign, taken back in 2004.


OK, I was so completely wrong about that... It was 2003, and it was Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Germany, not Venice. We went both places on the same trip so it's easy to see how I got confused.


Why do you write about McDonald's and tourism as if it's something bad?


Because they are.

McDonald's outside of the USA is supplanting rich cultural histories.

Tourism, especially as practiced by those who eat at McDonald's while visiting a foreign country, is typically disastrous to the local way of life. Locals end up selling trinkets to people for afar with more money then sense. Eventually the city becomes affordable and unbearable for the locals and the city becomes a lifeless shell of what it once was. Insipid like Las Vegas.


Venice is doomed. A beautiful civilization, the Atlantis of the Twenty-First century.


And no, we won't be able to 3D-print it back to life, but ultimately that is what time does, erasing civilizations.


Flooding and other symptoms of climate change are externalities that countries & corporations are not acknowledging let alone paying for. Who's responsible for compensating the businesses of Venice who are effected? Is it the government of Venice? Italy? If history has taught us anything, these entities are on their own.


The city has been sinking for quite a long time, are any businesses surprised when the floods come?


Yeah, most of Venice's problems are due to pumping water from the aquifer under the city.


not really, source please


https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027277141...

It really doesn't need a source. If Venice takes too much water from an aquifer then subsidence is unavoidable. The city is sitting on top of a sponge, after all. This is true for any city that's not built on bedrock (which I believe includes half of Manhattan and Miami. NYC of course draws from the Hudson)

Anyway, as the paper states the subsidence exasperates rising sea levels.


NYC's primary water supply comes from the Catskills, not from local aquifers or local riverine supplies (the Hudson River is too salty around Manhattan to draw from).


> It really doesn't need a source.

If the claim is that it is the main problem, I think it does need a source, and by reading the abstract it doesn't seem like yours is one.


I visited Amsterdam recently and noticed in conversation with a number of people that both the citizens and governments are very aware and concerned about climate change since they're in a particularly vulnerable position to rising ocean levels.


We are already below sea level, and experts claim we can handle an additional multiple meters of sea level rise : https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2019/10/04/we-kunnen-meters-zeespi... ( Dutch )

We will be fine and there are no worries in NL except from climate alarmists.


NL dikes can handle that but wouldn't you be flooded from behind via Germany and France?


Well, in Europe rivers flow from high terrain to the sea ( low terrain ).

We are at sea. Rivers come from central Europe.

As I said, nobody worries except climate alarmist and poorly educated people.


Even when there is someone responsible like the USA government for the nuclear waste close to sea level at the Marshall Islands, it’s hard to get accountability after the early years. https://www.latimes.com/projects/marshall-islands-nuclear-te...


Are you stating that any flooding and other symptoms of climate change are externalities of countries and corporations?

Would the earth be static if there were no countries or corporations?


Uhm, I would answer that as a Yes (but I think you would disagree). It'd be a subsistence level of existence for the several (tens of) millions of humans in existence in that scenario, but one with hardly any human impact on the global climate. The thought would be that massive specialisation led to our current level of (material) wealth and that both countries and corporations are signals of cooperation and thus facilite specialisation.

Even if I think of something like a Nozickian world as a starter, with exchangeable money as a transaction facility for transferring information, I immediately think we would see the roaming "tribes" as something akin to corporations.


Sea level has been rising thousands, ten thousands of years : 6-8k yrs ago, I would be able to walk to the UK from NL.

The North Sea was inhatibed : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doggerland


The rate at which the sea levels rose was much slower and much of that water was frozen in the arctic. The past couple of centuries are exceptionally different.


To that end, here's one of my favorite XKCDs ever, which is a long-form chart of Earth's average temperature for the past 22,000 years, including notes about the advancing and receding of ice and sea levels: https://xkcd.com/1732/ It does a fabulous job of driving home the rate at which the current pace of warming exceeds geological norms.


Would you care to back that up? If I DDG it https://duckduckgo.com/?q=historic+sea+level+rise&t=ffab&ia=...

I end up at https://skepticalscience.com/Past-150000-Years-of-Sea-Level-... ( that's right ) :

"During all episodes of major global ice loss, sea level rise has reached rates of at least 1.2 metres per century (equivalent to 12 mm per year). This is 4 times the current rate of sea level rise."

Not relying on one opinion, I view the XKCD of the sibbling : no sources.

Next hit on DDG : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Past_sea_level :

"Observational and modeling studies of mass loss from glaciers and ice caps indicate a contribution to a sea-level rise of 2 to 4 cm over the 20th century. "

Which is very low.

Would you care to back up your statement?


> Not relying on one opinion, I view the XKCD of the sibbling : no sources.

I'm having a hard time parsing that... Are you suggesting the XKCD graph lacks sources?


Those Cambrian creatures, driving their SUVs caused CO2 to be over 15x what it is today. The Cambrian life impact, living beyond their means, exploding with massive specialization of genetic diversity, should be ashamed for their usage of Earth's resources.


The changes in the weather patterns observed over the last few decades are more complex than just warmer temperatures, and it will be many decades before it is clear if climate change contributed to the intensifying storminess we're seeing. But the new research is a reminder that these extreme weather events are likely to increase in frequency and intensity as the planet warms, and that scientists need to keep an eye on that.


It would not be static, but the rate of change would be much slower than it is right now. Raising the level of atmospheric CO2 by over 50%, which humans have done in the past hundred years, increases the greenhouse effect enough to cause rapid warming and sea-level rise.


You know tides are not caused by climate, right?


Tides are deviation from mean sea level caused by gravitational interactions with the Moon (primarily). "Climate" doesn't impact gravity. It absolutely does impact the baseline sea level (a higher sea level means higher tides).


Venice would be flooded every 24 hours if this were a result of baseline sea level increase.


That's not even remotely how tides work... For starters, tides in the Mediterranean sea are semidiurnal, so it would be flooded every 12 hours, not every 24.

In reality though, tides vary significantly, in a periodic fashion, based on various cyclic factors. The Moon is not a fixed distance from the Earth, and the gravity of the Sun (and how it aligns with the Moon's gravity) plays a role as well. The level of "high tide" changes over the course of decades as those cycles overlap and diverge (like constructive and destructive wave interference).

I'm also not suggesting that climate change is the primary driver of the worsening flooding in Venice (geologic subsidence is major culprit there... the city is literally sinking). I was just pointing out that it's silly to claim that climate doesn't influence tides.


Insurance, just like any other weather-caused damage.


Insurance doesn't work that way. Insurance works by the insurer selling a bet that an event wont happen so that the buyer is covered if it does.

The insured doesn't mind paying for a (negative expected value) policy because the peace of mind is worth much more than the premium.

The insurer doesn't mind because they're making many bets across many flood plains.

The insurer is basically making money by charging a small premium to coordinate and ensure different people help each other out when they get unlucky.

As soon as flooding is guaranteed, there is no point of insurance since the premium is equal to the coverage provided.


Whether that cost is paid unexpectedly after a disaster or in installments leading up to a disaster really dodges the question - also, offering any sort of long term weather related insurance seems pretty risky right now and I wouldn't really trust any such insurance. The party offering it might just get overwhelmed and declare bankruptcy.

No matter which approach to ameliorate the cost is taken, I think it's quite valid to be concerned that this cost won't be levied on those that have contributed to the damage.


In the USA the national flood insurance program has distorted the market in an incredible way by incentivizing building and constant rebuilding in flood prone areas.


I think it's a bi of a reach to say that it incentivizes building in flood prone areas - there isn't, as far as I'm aware, any active reward for such actions - but it certainly doesn't appropriately punish such stupidity.

I'd love it if everyone who was hit by a hurricane was given money to rebuild somewhere safer, but just once.


I'm not sure about the US's national flood insurance, but for other things, it doesn't always enable stupidity. If there's private insurance companies involved, they usually won't insure abject stupidity. Even government insurance has its limits.

As an example, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast back in 2005, and it was a total disaster. Flooding, of course, was not covered by private insurance (it's been like this for a very long time), only wind, so there was a lot of arguing over whether insurance companies had to cover losses because the storm surge was actually caused by wind, and a lot of damage was solely caused by the hurricane-force Category 5 winds. I'm probably leaving some important details out...

Anyway, the aftermath was that private insurance companies in that area refused to insure wind damage to buildings. It just wasn't worth the risk. So the state (Mississippi) came up with something called the "wind pool" which was government-provided insurance for wind damage. The problem was, it was really expensive. So a lot of people never did rebuild, a lot of people left (or moved farther inland, where the insurance was cheaper), etc.

The bottom line is that enabling stupidity as far as building location only works long-term if it's being subsidized. If insurance reflects the true risk of building in a certain place, then it really limits that kind of activity.


There is no private insurance available for people in certain flood vulnerable areas in the USA - the NFIP is the only insurer available. When Congress attempted to make the premiums more reflective of the risk most recently, they rolled them back immediately when voters complained.


I agree with the moving people, refusing coverage after repeat usage in one location but the last time that was in Congress it failed to pass and minor reform was rolled back when they realized how many people were going to lose coverage.

Most of the initial premiums are based on 100 year flood plain maps based on recent years of rain (which may not have been typical), assume that rivers are static objects that do not change course, assume that coastal sand beaches are static and not dynamic.

By letting people stay in places that flood repeatedly and removing the risk for home owners/purchasers, the NFIP incentivizes building and rebuilding in areas that flood. According to this article, there were 37000 homes at the time of writing that had flooded four times and gotten at least 5000 in coverage payout (I could be wrong but last time I checked that is the most I could get in earthquake insurance when I read the annual offer around 2000 from my homeowners insurance). The NFIP is underwriting pretty well off people's lifestyle of living on a beach/river front/bayou. https://www.seattletimes.com/business/flood-insurance-rebuil...


It inflates the value of land that is truly worth little because anything you build there would be destroyed and nobody in their right mind would insure you for any reasonable sum.

Reasonable insurance is expected cost * probability + enough margin for a small profit + cover bad bets.

The gap between a reasonable rate and the rate paid is a gift paid to homeowners with above average wealth and builders with below average sense.

Since builders can earn more building a home that will be flooded out in 7 years with a higher selling price by virtue of beings water front property but only if the government subsidizes insurance they are directly incentivized to do so.


https://www.wsj.com/articles/one-house-22-floods-repeated-cl...

"The six-bedroom house, which has an indoor swimming pool, sits along the San Jacinto River. It has flooded 22 times since 1979, making it one of the most flood-damaged properties in the country."


Venice should sue the fossil fuel companies for damages, like Hawaii: https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/11/honolulu-to-fossil-fuel-co...


Can we please keep these political hit job pieces off of HN? /s




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