UN Agency Backs Futuristic Floating Cities as Hedge Against Sea Level Rise
A research coalition backed by a United Nations agency will look at the possibility of building floating cities to provide a futuristic form of relief for coastal communities facing rapid sea level rise.
“UN-Habitat, which works on sustainable urban development, will team up with private firm Oceanix, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and The Explorers Club, a professional society, to advance the concept,” the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports. “With 90% of the world’s largest cities vulnerable to inundation as glaciers melt and seas rise on a warming planet, modular platforms anchored to the sea floor could be connected in a ring to house communities atop the oceans.”
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Within months, the partnership hopes to build a prototype moored to the dock on New York City’s East River, next to UN headquarters. It’ll be built by Oceanix, which anticipates a structure that grows its own food and meets its own water and energy needs.
“We’re basically building resilience at the platform level,” said CEO Marc Collins Chen.
While the idea is capturing imaginations, it’s also raising concerns about climate justice and international equity.
“The concept has prompted cutting-edge research in water management, ocean engineering, and farming that could produce floating cities which are self-sufficient and safe from extreme weather like storms,” Thomson Reuters states. At the same time, “some have also warned the cities may end up being only for the ultra-rich—such as floating villas currently being sold off the coast of Dubai—a risk the new project aims to address by exploring sea-borne homes for the neediest, too.”
Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said the technology development for floating cities could help existing communities, as well. “The benefits are not just going to be what you will be doing on water, but on land,” he told Thomson Reuters.