How Big is 100,000 Billion?

Bay Area homes stand below water level behind levee
Even without the significant impacts of sea level rise, some Bay Area communities are already at risk (Photo Credit: Matt Leddy).

Last month the National Academy of Sciences released a report describing the”unfathomable costs” faced by coastal societies around the globe from sea level rise. “The world needs to invest tens of billions of dollars a year in beefing up shoreline defenses against rising oceans or it will face mind-boggling costs in the decades to come,” reported Inside Climate News.

The scientists warned in their new report that future damage caused by sea level rise may be “one of the most costly aspects of climate change.” The report projected a worst-case dollar cost of $100 trillion by 2100. That’s a scary number – 100,000 billion dollars, across the globe.

Save The Bay is working to keep you informed and engaged on issues related to sea level rise around the San Francisco Bay region, where the impact from sea level rise is projected to be around $50 billion. As the National Academy of Sciences story points out, the response to this threat is not just building or hardening infrastructure like seawalls but also “preserving natural sponges like wetlands.”

This soft infrastructure is not just cheaper than old-fashioned hard engineering alternatives, it brings many benefits for people and wildlife over the long term. Healthy wetlands provide a natural buffer against storms and sea level rise by acting as sponges to absorb excess water along the Bay shoreline. Newly restored wetlands are making leopard sharks happy in the South Bay, where they are finding lots more to eat in wetlands being restored there than they did when the salt ponds were closed off from the Bay. The restoration also often includes new shoreline trails and public access, places to get your kids and the whole family outdoors on weekend outings. Of course, this work has to make progress now to stay ahead of the rising seas – and we’ve reported to you about significant wetland restoration progress to date.

I am hoping that you can see the connection between a prediction of massive potential damage from sea level rise around the world, and happy sharks and happy kids on the SF Bay shoreline. This great new video from a local college student helps put the Bay restoration project in perspective – please watch and share it. Because a healthy San Francisco Bay is vital to the quality of life and economy of all of us here in the region. Plans to adapt to rising seas may be difficult and expensive, in the Bay Area as elsewhere, but we are better served by facing the realities rather than ignoring them – and there are many benefits from restoring Bay wetlands to help the whole region cope.