Venice. Some claim it to be the world most beautiful city. Stunning architecture immersed in water. Sometimes literally. Charming, romantic, and a much loved destination for millions of travellers every year. And in the not-so-distant future some travellers will be able to enjoy 'Venice' from the comfort of their own city, all courtesy of climate change. Would you like a sneak preview? A scientific organisation has been busy putting together just that.
Climate Central, a US-based organisation made up of scientists and journalists analysing and reporting on climate change and its effects, has combined its own scientific research findings with Google Earth 3D data, to produce a series of fly over videos showing how sea level rises will affect the coastal cities of Buenos Aires, Durban, Hamburg, Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, Vancouver and Washington DC, both under the current carbon emission trends, and consequent four degree Celsius global temperature increase expected; and under the recommended international two degree Celsius temperature increase target.
The videos, available on their 'Surging Seas' page make for a stark visual representation of rising sea levels as a consequence of climate change, and can be therefore a useful tool in stimulating debate about climate change, its impacts, and what we can all do to both prevent and adapt to them. Based on the premise that a picture tells a thousand words, these videos may succeed where thousands of scientific papers may have so far failed, namely in engaging lay people into the climate change debate.
Yet current predictions estimate that this 'not so distant future' is still a few centuries away – although predictions are also known to change as data gathering techniques become more sophisticated over time. It could mean therefore that when it comes to action we may just feel that we can look the other away that little bit longer. Although watching these videos will no doubt strengthen the resolve of, and stimulate further debate among those already converted, I do wonder however if, to many people, these videos may just appear so far off as to seem fictional. But that's not to dismiss them.
Visual representations of the effects of climate change have nevertheless an important role to play in the dissemination of knowledge on the subject: after all it is too important a subject to leave it to hard data alone: the more senses that are engaged, the more likely the message is to hit the spot.