As Sea Levels Rise, Venice Fights to Stay Above the Waterline

A 17-year project to build underwater floodgates in the city has been mired in delays and corruption

Water floods St. Mark's Square in Venice
Marco Bertorello/AFP via Getty Images

While climatologists use highly technical instruments and satellites to measure rise in global sea levels, Venetians suggest a much simpler method: just count the steps of centuries-old buildings that are now under water, NBC News reports.

“Do you see those heads of lions?”Giovanni Cecconi, the president of the Venice Resilience Lab, says, referring to a sequence of statues sculpted at the base of a palazzo. “They are all well below the green line, the main sea level drawn up by the algae. These days they are almost always underwater, but when this building was built in the 1500s, they were well visible to guests who entered it.”

There is a pressing need to act. In November, a 6-foot-high tide — the second highest ever recorded — pushed by 35 mph winds submerged 80 percent of Venice. The seawater flooded shops, restaurants, residential ground floors and even the Basilica in St. Mark’s Square, causing damage in excess of $1 billion.

While scientists around the world warn about the threat posed by rising seas, Venice has had the tide literally at its doorstep since its foundation — it has been adapting to it for centuries in innovative ways that can serve as an example to other coastal cities across the globe.

Read the full story on NBC

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