The next time you take a trip to see the magnificent beaches of Mali, take a leisurely gondola ride in Venice, or wonder at the architecture of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, make sure to bring your best camera. If scientific studies are accurate, photos will be the only way your great-great-grandchildren will see them. Mother Nature has slated a number of places to significantly shrink or disappear from the earth entirely by 2100 due to climate change, changing soil and sea levels, natural disasters and economic problems. It’s not too late, but these places may very well become the next Atlantis.
10. San Francisco, USA
Most people realize the earthquake danger in San Francisco, yet the enormity of the potential devastation is almost beyond comprehension. According to the University of California, research forecasts a 75% probability that an earthquake of a 7 or greater magnitude will occur by 2086. Will the survivors elect to re-build the majestic city? Will they be able to? Prior to Katrina, the population of New Orleans was close to 500,000. Afterwards, the population shrunk by about half. It’s rising again, but the demographics are still far lower than they were pre-Katrina. The population of San Francisco is about 900,000. Tall structures abound and there’s no such thing as a completely earthquake proof structure. In fact, the population of San Francisco is shrinking. Not only is the city pricey, but many are wondering where they or their relatives may end up with the city’s hazardous coastline and predicted disasters!
9. Venice, Italy
One of the world’s most romantic cities has been sinking for about a millennium. The pace has increased rapidly over the last 100 years, with the soil level sinking about 24 centimeters. Venice’s vulnerability to sea and groundwater level change is extremely serious. For example, 100 years ago St. Mark’s Square flooded around nine time per year, and now it’s inundated with water 100 times per year. The government has been working on plans to protect Venice, but will they work? No one knows.
Preserving Venice has been a priority of the Italian Government for about 30 years. Several billion euros have been dedicated to a major flood defense system, called the MOSE Project. Proposed since the 1970s, it’s basically a series of floodgates to stretch across three openings that connect the Venetian Lagoon with the Adriatic Sea. However, the progress of the project has been checkered with stops and starts, new completion dates and now possible illegality. In June the Mayor and other top officials were arrested on corruption charges involving MOSE. It’s been suggested that the City be moved to higher land altogether to protect its population and precious art and frescoes.
8. Detroit, USA
“Motor City” may become “Abandoned City” as the population of Detroit continues to decline. If these trends keep up, Detroit will be changed beyond recognition by 2100. The culprits include major economic and demographic decline, including moves to the suburbs. At its peak in 1950 the population was 1,850,000, compared with its present 701,000. Global competition in the automobile industry, significant unemployment, crime rates and severe urban decay have rocked the city. In 2013, Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy case in American history. The unemployment rate is 23.1%, and one-third are living below the poverty level. Parts of the city are already ghost towns as urban decay has set into once thriving communities. Some areas look completely wild. Detroit also has some of the highest crime rates in the United States — in 2012 their murder rate was 53 per 100,000, ten times that of New York City. A 2012 Forbes report named Detroit the most dangerous city in the United States for the fourth year in a row.
In 2010, Mayor Bing put forth a plan to bulldoze one fourth of the city and concentrate the population into certain areas to improve the delivery of essential city services. In February 2013 the Detroit Free Press reported the Mayor’s plan to accelerate the program and desire for federal funding to tackle Detroit’s problems in order to “right size the city’s resources to reflect its smaller population.”
7. Ivanovo, Russia
This district capital and administrative center of Ivanovo Oblast is in serious decline. Once a major textile center, the city attracted women seeking work. This created a significant gender imbalance that gave it the nickname “The City of Brides.”
Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, 60% of the population had to live on food they grew, a survival strategy known as the “dachma movement.” Growing textile competition from China and other emerging economies also eroded the economy. The combination of a low birthrate, high poverty, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, high mortality rates, poor quality of dwellings, and “grey” businesses have all but destroyed the once thriving city as its youth are leaving to seek an education and re-settle somewhere with modern industry.
6. Mexico City, Mexico
Mexico City began as the home of an ancient empire and grew into one of the world’s largest cities, with more than 20 million people living in this modern metropolis. It’s built on top of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. It was here where, in 1519, Cortes allegedly met Montezuma, the Aztec emperor. After conquering the Aztecs, Cortes, in Spanish tradition, placed the square at the heart of the city, surrounding it by buildings representing the church and the government. Yet the city, home to Diego Rivera murals, cathedrals and palaces, is literally sinking. The problem is its base. A dried lake bed makes a poor foundation. According to government officials, Mexico City is sinking at a rate of four inches a year and has sunk 10 meters in the past sixty years. So be prepared to walk carefully when you visit.
5. Banjul, Gambia
The small West African nation of Gambia may lose its capital due to a combination of the rising ocean and erosion. Banjul is at risk of going underwater as sea levels rise by one meter as a result of climate change. Settlements will be eroded, and over half of the country’s mangrove forests and a fifth of its rice fields will be lost. The decrease in rice production would be disastrous, as would other environmental changes including droughts, floods and storms. As tourist attractions and fisheries are located in the coastal zones, the economy would be critically affected. The government is trying to improve coastal defenses, but whether they can save the city and the coast is unknown.
4. Timbuktu, Mali
When sand dunes advance on fertile land, desertification is a problem. The city in southern Africa facing the greatest danger was a center of Islamic education during the 15th and 16th centuries. Timbuktu is over over 1,000 years old and is known for its tourist attractions, which include beautiful beaches with turquoise reefs and many historical sights. Sadly, your grandchildren may have to find other exotic locations to go snorkeling, as some parts are already half buried in sand despite several projects to re-green the area.
3. Naples, Italy
Naples is the magnificent capital of the Italian region Campania and the third-largest municipality in the country. As of 2012, the population was around 960,000 with an urban area of about 3.5 million, making it one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea. One of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Naples’ historic city center is the largest in Europe and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Naples has long been a major cultural center with a global sphere of influence, particularly during the Renaissance and Enlightenment eras. Visitors are treated to historically significant sites, including the Palace of Caserta and the Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Its nemesis has been the time-bomb, Mount Vesuvius, located in the Bay of Naples. The volcano that destroyed Pompeii in 79 BC erupts about every 100 years, with the last eruption coming in 1944. It’s expected to do its damage once again in the mid-2000s, putting the city and half a million people in the “red zone” if they’re not evacuated in time.
2. Bangkok, Thailand
Bangkok is in trouble. The city is sinking, while sea levels are rising. Building foundations are being pushed into the muddy soil and underground aquifers are being drained for drinking water. Rising sea levels are the real problem, though, with estimates giving the city no more than a century until the streets become canals. While scientists agree that the problem needs to be addressed they disagree on the best solution, while the government doesn’t appear to be looking for any solution at all. The city won’t flood overnight, but if you want to check out its awesome robot building it may be better to go sooner rather than later.
1. Other American Cities in Jeopardy
Rising seas and global warming have put U.S. coastal cities at risk. Residents should consider either seeking higher ground or avoiding any long-term investments. Since 1889, global sea levels have raised about eight inches, and they’re still climbing. Rising seas dramatically increase the odds of damaging floods from storm surges. One analysis found the odds of floods occurring by 2030 are on track to double or worse.
Nearly five million Americans live less than four feet above high tide. In decades, New York City, New Orleans, Boston, Washington D.C., and southeast Florida may be overcome by flood conditions made worse by climate changes. Other cities that could be affected include Baltimore, Charleston, Houston, Galveston, Los Angeles, Long Island, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Delaware, Portland, Providence, San Diego, Savannah, Seattle, Tacoma, Virginia Beach and Norfolk. That pretty much just leaves Kansas, but then you run into the tornado problem. And you’d have to live in Kansas.