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Earth Science Technology

The Golden Gate Barrage: New Ideas To Counter Sea Level Rise 341

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-rising-tide-lifts-all-boats-and-all-houses-and-oh-god-run dept.
waderoush writes "What do Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Oracle, LinkedIn, and Intuit have in common? They're just a few of the tech companies whose campuses alongside San Francisco Bay could be underwater by mid-century as sea levels rise. It's time for these organizations and other innovators to put some of their fabled brainpower into coming up with new ideas to counter the threat, Xconomy argues today. One idea: the Golden Gate Barrage, a massive system of dams, locks, and pumps located in the shadow of the iconic bridge. Taller than the Three Gorges Dam in China, it would be one of the largest and costliest projects in the history of civil engineering. But at least one Bay Area government official says might turn out to be the simplest way to save hundreds of square miles of land around the bay from inundation."
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The Golden Gate Barrage: New Ideas To Counter Sea Level Rise

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  • Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Oracle, LinkedIn, and Intuit need to snap to it, then. If they started now they could get it in place in a few years, before the seas come rushing in. They've got the funds. Money, meet mouth.

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

      by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:40PM (#44718389) Homepage

      I'm sort of neutral about Google, but drowning those other three companies in salt water sounds like a net plus to me.

      Keep the heat on. Lets put a whole bunch more shrimp on the barbies! (They'll probably go extinct in a couple of decades anyway).

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jythie (914043) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:09PM (#44718701)
      With cash reserves like their's, they can just move instead. There is nothing special about the land they are using... the historical reason such projects made sense in the past was they were reclaiming farmable land, which is not quite as interchangeable as corporate parks.
      • Agree. China has built a huge very high speed rail network with the sort of money spaffed by Facebook on a picture sharing app.

        PS:

        With cash reserves like their's

        apostrophe not required.

      • Re:So... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Frobnicator (565869) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:59PM (#44719125) Journal

        With cash reserves like their's, they can just move instead. There is nothing special about the land they are using... the historical reason such projects made sense in the past was they were reclaiming farmable land, which is not quite as interchangeable as corporate parks.

        It is not just San Francisco that is worried. Water levels won't just rise in that one city.

        Turns out people have already done research on who lives in low-lying coastal regions. About 10% of the global population will likely need to move. 2/3 of the world's largest cities would be swamped or submerged. [npr.org]

        The United States might lose only 5% of its land. Countries like India will lose half of their land. Some island nations will be completely uninhabitable.

        Even if sea walls cost quadrillions of dollars globally to delay the eventual flooding of the land, that is likely still cheaper than such a massive sudden loss of existing infrastructure. It is cheaper (for a few centuries, at least) to spend a few trillion dollars protecting major cities than it is to completely rebuild the cities elsewhere.

        Yes the people will need to eventually move through both a planned migration and normal population growth. Relocating 10% of the global population in just a few short decades is a much harder problem to solve, and a much more expensive proposition, than to build the massive walls around existing large cities.

        • An advantage for living in Denver has finally become perceptible.
        • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Friday August 30, 2013 @05:04PM (#44720153) Journal
          It is not so sudden if you have a 50-100 year warning... so it would be cheaper to move, just not all at once. Start now by placing incentives in place. It is not in the public interest, for example, to provide government insurance for known coastal flood zones.

          Like so many problems, it is not an all or nothing deal. Declare now that public funds will not be used for massive dyke projects, and publish a reasonable timetable describing tapering off of any flood coverage, such that the percentage of coverage is zero in 50 years. You can't fight nature, but there will be no end of people willing to take the money to try.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Mr. Firewall (578517)

        Precisely.

        The "Climate Change" that threatens these companies is the economic climate of the former Golden State.

        At 3.25 inches per century (the current rate of sea level rise in California), by the time those campi have been inundated some tens of thousands of years from now, all of those companies will have either moved or gone under -- not from water, but by the flood of taxes and regulations in the Golden [Fleece] State.

      • Or, instead of trying to stop the earth from moving, consider the following:

        3% of earth's above-water landmass is covered in urban areas.
        Counting any part of the earth's surface that has any human or agricultural footprint, 43% of the earth's land surface is "inhabited."

        Instead of pouring national economy's resources into protecting a fraction of a fraction's percent of landmass, they could all just move somewhere else. 57% of the earth's land surface doesn't even have anyone on it to say otherwise.

        They wo

    • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:14PM (#44718743)
      This article is one of the dumbest things I have read in a long time. Not only is the dam system stupid but there's no way these companies would actually do this. It's so much cheaper and easier to just move to a new location.
      • Re:So... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by roc97007 (608802) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:18PM (#44718771) Journal

        Well, of course. Even if for some reason the companys elected to stay, they'd naturally expect the government to build the structures using taxpayer money.

        • Its hard to know if youre jabbing at companies or not. Somewhere out there, someone actually thinks its appropriate to criticize a private business for not financing a boondoogle system of locks.

      • Re:So... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:53PM (#44719087)
        Suddenly though the plot of Pacific Rim becomes a perfect metaphor for global warming. Our leaders pushing people to build giant dams to protects us from the monsters coming from the sea that are unleashed by a greedy class of beings that want only to strip our world of all its resources. None of the solutions actually working until the problem is attacked at its source.
      • by gmuslera (3436)
        Would be profitable for them to move to a new location, i.e. somewhere outside US where they don't have to follow its secret legislation. Most of them have enough money to have their own country,
    • I would just move my offices to cruse ships.

    • by gagol (583737)
      Would it not be more profitable to relocate their HQ and collect damage money? What is the incentive?
    • Keep dreaming. Professional sports team owners could start setting aside a portion of their annual profits to pay for their own stadium upgrades every 20 years. They've got the funds... but it's cheaper to make the taxpayers pay for it. Too big to leave town and all that.

  • Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nick357 (108909) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:35PM (#44718331)

    ...maybe put that brainpower into solving the actual global problem, rather than finding a bandaid solution to the local symptom....

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dkleinsc (563838)

      Umm, yeah, not going to happen. The powers that be in the US have pretty much decided they don't care about global warming, because it would cut into the profits of major industries like coal and oil and be expensive and unpleasant for everyone else.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        A "Golden Gate Barrage" doesn't sound cheap to me.

        Then again... the taxpayer's going to pay for it so they don't care. Keep that petroleum pumping, guys!

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        Global warming wouldn't do anything to the profits of oil and coal. Those would still remain uniformly high. You still need to burn something to get energy.

        Global warming, or rather, programs to counteract that effect would, however, have a big effect on energy generation companies that would have to figure out how to keep CO2 emissions down from burning those hydrocarbons.

        I expect that forward looking oil and coal companies with any intelligence will be looking at diversifying into other resource or ener

    • by BaronM (122102)

      If it were a matter of brainpower, there wouldn't be an issue.

      On the other hand, if they use a few billion dollars to buy off every politician that opposes effective regulation and taxing of carbon, they might actually make a difference.

      • Problems should be solved because they need to be solved; equally, elected officials should do what's best for the people who elected them, not whichever industry organization gives them the biggest kickback.

        To that end, why should, say, Missouri politicians give a rat's arse about coastal flooding? Hell, if the sea level rises enough it could very well be to our advantage; ocean-front property in Branson would bring in some serious bucks :)

        (in case you were wondering, yes, I am being half-assed satirical.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      ...maybe put that brainpower into solving the actual global problem, rather than finding a bandaid solution to the local symptom....

      A phenomally expensive band-aid that will likely tear apart in an earthquake, adding an inrushing wall of water to the rest of the problems.

      • A phenomally [sic] expensive band-aid that will likely tear apart in an earthquake, adding an inrushing wall of water to the rest of the problems.

        Because no one would think to anticipate earthquakes in the vicinity of San Francisco when designing such a structure? Or do you have some other insight that I'm missing?

    • Re:Or... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:45PM (#44718467) Journal

      I've kind of given up on that. Between the noxious attacks by oil company shill organizations like the Heartland Institute, halfwits who buy into anything that means they can fool themselves for a few more years, and a total lack of meaningful political will, I think we're fucked.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      ...maybe put that brainpower into solving the actual global problem, rather than finding a bandaid solution to the local symptom....

      These comments really bother me. You do both simultaneously. Given the longevity of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, we'd still have a problem if we became an overnight net zero carbon society. A cardiologist doesn't refuse a stent because the patient lives an unhealthy lifestyle. You do both - fix the problem AND treat the root cause. It's not one or the other.

    • ...maybe put that brainpower into solving the actual global problem, rather than finding a bandaid solution to the local symptom....

      Getting Hot in Here [thedailyshow.com]

    • by jythie (914043)
      The problem with solving the global problem is that it requires some legal system to make everyone play the same, countries have an incentive to cheat or hope other countries do more about the problem then they do. While I think a project like this is kinda silly, it is within the scope of what they CAN do something about, all the land is contained within a single state which has the power to enforce whatever is decided.
    • well, they most probably did try googling for a solution

    • by riverat1 (1048260)

      Even if we solve the problem of anthropogenic climate change there's probably already at least 10 feet of sea level rise built into the current conditions. It takes centuries for major ice masses (Antarctic, Greenland, etc) to fully adjust to new temperature regimes.

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      By far the main priority for the ones that causes the problem is to keep getting money, that is the ultimate good in US, not people, and they have enough resources to put their mansions elsewhere if a big city floods tomorrow anyway. And as they make the laws [salon.com], nothing will change (unless the "change" makes even more profit for them, like building pharaonic dams that won't solve the problem, but will give them even more money)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:36PM (#44718345)

    Let's build an extremely complex system of levees in an area prone to high magnitude earthquakes.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    • by rickb928 (945187)

      Imagine building all this to keep the sea out, and then to find that the wave you weren't expecting is coming from the shore. After the Big One. Tsunami. Crushing your system from the other side.

      At least it won't have a thousand miles to travel. Traffic around LA is a beast.

  • With how American Politicians almost uniformly deny global warming and sea level rise, I am surprised that none of them have yet suggested building a couple of large gigawatt nuclear power station barges and huge pumps then pump seawater into the middle of Antarctica where it may freeze...

    • Hey, that sounds awesome. Except for the nuclear part. Haven't you heard, nuclear is out and natural gas is in. Other than that, write it up and send it. The fossil fuel companies can pretend their helping and politicians stop looking stupid for denying the obvious.

      We can even call the project "Panchaea."

  • So, who pays? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by timeOday (582209) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:40PM (#44718399)
    In general it is good to make people accountable for the costs of their own actions. In the case of global warming, many of the people who burned much of the fossil fuel will be dead by the time the consequences occur, and in addition it's a global cause.

    I wonder if we wouldn't just be better off writing some laws now that say, "look, don't come crying to us when your expensive beach-front property goes underwater. Factor that into the price before you buy."

    We need a carbon tax just to speed the transition to less less-polluting energy sources; if we instead use that money to repair thousands of miles of coastline and keep burning fossil fuel, we solve nothing.

    • We need a carbon tax just to speed the transition to less less-polluting energy sources; if we instead use that money to repair thousands of miles of coastline and keep burning fossil fuel, we solve nothing.

      Problem is, under any of the currenlty-being-considered carbon tax proposals, megalithic corporations can just bribe the government into letting them pollute as much as they want, and the money from the bribes goes into the general fund, not any special 'fix the shit they break' trust.

      In short, I don't disagree with the concept, I just don't trust the oligarchs to do it right and not fuck the world over for their own, personal profit.

    • by tnk1 (899206)

      A carbon tax remains a policy option, but if you focus on one policy option, you might as well plan for what is really going to happen. No one wants a tax on that because no one wants to be taxed on something they don't understand and can't perceive. I know everyone's all fixated on making people pay the "social costs" of something, but I think we should drop the idealism and work on some policies that don't thrust the concept down people's throats, because it is an entirely alien concept.

      I'd envision a m

  • by JoeyRox (2711699) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:40PM (#44718401)
    That should be good for a few feet of water.
  • Which is cheaper, the Space Elevator or building dams and pumping stations using fossil fuels?
    • In the short or long term? Remember, in this world of corporate profits, the long term is absolutely fucking meaningless. Long term to the sociopaths we've put in charge of the global economy is no more six to eight quarters.

    • I forget, how does "the Space Elevator" address sea level rise? Do we just put all of the water on the elevator?

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I think maybe he's talking about getting off this mudball. We'd need a series of elevators for that, though, and then a whole lot of other hand-waving besides.

        • We need a whole hell of a lot more than an elevator to leave Earth. An elevator just gets you into space cheaply. That's the easy part. There's no reason to work on an elevator if we can't then travel to and colonize another place. Considering that each possible destination comes with its own massive set of challenges for permanently living there, I seriously doubt that there is anyone alive today who will witness the first permanent settlement on another rock.

          It just seemed like a really weird question

  • Amazing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:45PM (#44718465)

    According to NOAA, the actual average sea level rise over the last 100 years has been about 2 MILLIMETERS per year, or 200mm/century, or about 8 inches per 100 years. Here's the official data http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/sltrends_station.shtml?stnid=9414290. If you look at the chart you'll see that the trend has actually dropped to about zero mm / year for the last 30 years.

    So, in light of this, we need the biggest engineering project in history?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop (214511)

      I can save them a few trillion dollars: move to higher ground.

      • Because moving the coastal sections of a major North American urban center to new territory, some of which almost certainly is going to be privately owned, won't cost nearly as much.

    • I think you need new glasses. I'm looking at that graph and it's an upward trend. That's a helluva a spin you put on it, but even the graph itself shows that sea level has not slowed to nothing at that station in the last 30 years.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        It's an upwards trend over 100 years, but over the past 30 it's almost totally flat (on average). Which is exactly what the AC said.

        Not that sea level rise isn't going to be a problem: it is, but it's actually one of the more minor and easily soluble problems global warming introduces, because it's slow. You can re-build an entire city in less time than it takes for the water to rise significantly (and in fact, many many cities have). All you have to do is move inland. Or, as one of the posters above sugge

  • by jelwell (2152) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:47PM (#44718489)

    Why not just move? Sea barriers is literally pushing the problem around. That solves nothing.
    Joseph Elwell.

    • Letting the air out of your tires to fit under a low bridge ignores the possibility of having someone pay you to design and construct a much nicer, taller bridge. If you're not the one paying for it, you may as well go for the splashiest (!) solution you can dream up.

  • huh (Score:4, Funny)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Friday August 30, 2013 @01:47PM (#44718491) Journal

    Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Oracle, LinkedIn, and Intuit have in common? They're just a few of the tech companies whose campuses alongside San Francisco Bay could be underwater by mid-century as sea levels rise

    And all this time I thought Global Warming would be a bad thing. Is there any way we can speed this up, get those companies under water faster?

  • Let nature retake it. Before humans settled there and paved the swamps it was a great haven for all kinds of animals. Constantly pumping to avoid moving up the hill a bit is really wasteful and all it takes is a dam failure to have another Katrina style disaster.
  • by Princeofcups (150855) <john@princeofcups.com> on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:05PM (#44718645) Homepage

    So we have to build this to protect companies. Actually, company property. OK, no, actually the property that they rent, since they probably don't own it. What about the PEOPLE that will be flooded. Why should I care about protecting companies? Is our mindset really so fucked up that companies come first? Rhetorical question.

    • Without those companies, how will those people be able to afford their environment-saving Telsas? And send their kids to private schools so they don't have to mix with the proels. Please, please think of the children.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      So we have to build this to protect companies. Actually, company property. OK, no, actually the property that they rent, since they probably don't own it. What about the PEOPLE that will be flooded. Why should I care about protecting companies? Is our mindset really so fucked up that companies come first? Rhetorical question.

      Why should I be protecting people who choose to own property in San Francisco? It's not a secret that the sea level is rising; estimates of how much it will rise vary widely but many of them have repercussions for SF. Anyone in SF right now can sell their property right now (or for many years now) and then can afford to buy almost anywhere else in the world. These are not people who require protection. These are people who require a wake-up call. I can understand why someone might rent there, but they need

  • Without truly massive pumps it's not going to work because the Bay doesn't just receive water from the ocean, but also from the Sacramento River and other minor waterways (plus storm drain runoff from most cities by the Bay).

    The Sacramento River peak volume during a flood event (such as might be seen during a tropical storm with heavy rainfall) is 650,000 cubic feet/second [familywateralliance.com] (18,000 m^3/sec). The pumps are going to have to pump at least that much water up over the sea wall or the Bay is going to fill up from

  • by sribe (304414) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:16PM (#44718753)

    So, in order to protect against a rise in sea level of no more than 1 foot in the absolute worst case, they need to build a system of dams, locks and pumps greater than 600 feet high???

    • by HiThere (15173)

      Sorry, but 1 foot isn't the worst case scenario. It's the "Probably not more than" scenario. The worst case is actually measured in meters, but is probably unlikely. (It requires massive releases of methane from submerged methyl cathlates.)

      (Actually, even that isn't the worst case. A real worst case would be a dinosaur killer size asteroid impacting near Antarctica. That would lead to a tsunami perhaps a thousand feet high, and .... well, the rest wouldn't really matter. But all of Antarctica would me

  • by jamesl (106902) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:18PM (#44718769)

    ... to a not so extreme event.

    From the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report:
    Climate Change 2007

    Sea level is projected to rise between the present (1980 - 1999) and the end of this century (2090 - 2099) by 0.35 m (0.23 to 0.47 m) for the A1B scenario ...
    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch11s11-9-4.html [www.ipcc.ch]

    Costly too.

  • by McGruber (1417641) on Friday August 30, 2013 @02:20PM (#44718791)
    This is a stupid article:

    There is only one way for ocean water to go in and out, and that’s through the Golden Gate, a 300-foot-deep gap in the Coastal Range that was originally gouged out thousands of years ago by a mighty river.

    As a result of this lucky geological accident, it would be possible in theory to control the water level in the Bay—to put a stopper in the bathtub drain—by building a massive tidal gate, more or less in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge. The ideal location, based on tidal velocities and the topography of the Bay bottom, would be about half a mile east of the bridge, as shown in the graphic above.

    The author overlooked the Sacramento & San Joaquin Rivers, both of which drain into the San Francisco Bay. You don't put a "stopper in the bathtub drain" when you cannot turn off the faucet flowing into that bathtub.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The author overlooked the Sacramento & San Joaquin Rivers, both of which drain into the San Francisco Bay.

      Perhaps they're planning to sell them to Southern California.

    • by istartedi (132515)

      Actually you can turn off those rivers. You just shouldn't. The Colorado's delta is virtually dry because we divert so much water. In the early 20th century we did a lot of things like that, and now we're just starting to see the problems. The problem with dumping river water on soil in arid areas is that it concentrates salts. Some actually blame this kind of irrigation for the fall of ancient civilizations in South America. We're already seeing salination in some Central Valley soils. There have

  • We see in so many movies that have underwater cities etc... they all have bio domes and seem to have their infrastructure and atmosphere all encapsulated, but I guess this could have happened over time instead of all at once, as this could be a sign of changes to come, if the sea keeps rising, then we could just need to start building a dome like encasement, allowing us to keep the buildings where they are without too much worry about moving or losing the investment of that chosen physical location.

  • Not that I know anything at all, but it seems like their trying to hold back the ocean. That seems counter-productive to me. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense, seeing as how we're land dwellers and all, to simply build-up the land? We've been extending cities out into lakes and oceans for centuring -- filling in the ocean one block at a time. That's why my city has a front street, then a lakeshore street, and then harbour street, and then thirty yards of land, and then finally the lake.

    I'd imagine that

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