In the summer of 2011, 6 inches of rain fell on Copenhagen in less than three hours. The deluge flooded city streets, parks, and seeped into the city’s basements and cellars. The rain cost the city 6 billion Danish kroner, a little more than 1 billion dollars.
Copenhagen has a Climate Adaptation Plan, which was developed that same year. The plan takes initiatives to prevent damage from climate change. Constructing dikes, limiting building developments in low-lying regions, and expanding the capacity of sewers and managing rainwater are a few things the city hopes to accomplish in the coming years to become more resilient to the threats of climate change.
I’ve come to realize that often times it take a disaster to wake a city up, to make politicians and decisions makers aware that these threats are very real. We saw this in New Orleans after Katrina, in New York after Sandy, and again here in Copenhagen after these floods. As Jos Besteman in the Netherlands told me, North Holland tax payers are getting frustrated by the cost of flood protection paid to the Water Board, they said a storm would change public opinion–protection is something worth paying for.
Copenhagen’s sewer systems are not fit to handle the predicted increase in precipitation. The Copenhagen Climate Adaptation Plan describes a plan of attack for preventing another costly flood from uncontrolled storm water. By expanding its sewers, creating underground basins and improving pumping stations, Copenhagen would be able to increase the capacity of its drainage network. Making large scale manipulations to the sewers would be very costly, though. The city hopes to implement techniques to manage water locally. If individuals make small scale changes all over the city by replacing impermeable surfaces with porous material that lets water percolate naturally into the ground, the city could see large scale results. Finally, the city has plans to direct water away from buildings, cellars, and roadways and towards parks, sports fields, or parking lots where excess water would do minimal damage.
Copenhagen’s Climate Adaptation Plan also mentions preparing for rising seas. The study notes that Copenhageners should expect a 1m rise in the next century. If the city did nothing, this rise in sea level would cause the city considerable damage.
Honestly nothing cool or noteworthy happened in Copenhagen. I went to a museum to see some paintings I learned about in Professor Docherty’s European Art class at the NY Carlsberg Glyptotek but all the famous paintings were out in other countries on tour. I went to the Opera house to admire the architecture but it was closed. I got lost and rained on. I just figured that Copenhagen wasn’t too jazzed to have me. Whatever Copenhagen.
I met Christa Villari, a Bowdoin junior who is studying abroad in Denmark and also caught up with Dennis Liu, another Bowdoin guy who played rugby with us last spring. It was cool just to walk around and take some pictures and draw some drawings. But really, nothing notable whatsoever.
I am in Hamburg, Germany right now. I found a hostel next to the Central Station. The hostel is called ‘The Generator’ and is basically just like a dog kennel for young people. There are 10 floors of 30 rooms with six bunk beds. Its flocked with groups of Germans out and about on ‘stag’ weekends. The place is made for groups of people traveling together and looking for a cheap place to sleep, since they’ll be out all night at bars anyways. It’s a tough environment for me, riding solo. I just laughed it off to prevent myself from thinking about how horrifically depressing it really is. Either way a bed is a bed. This is better than the alternative, which is staying in central station with Hamburg’s homeless. They smiled at me with rotting teeth as if I was a piece of delicious prime rib as I wandered around in circles trying to remember who I was, where I was going, and why I was in Germany.
Hamburg has some really interesting sea level adaptation projects. Near the river, Hamburg has developed to allow the ground floor to flood. Storefronts are prepared to take water in, rather than block it out. I should learn more as the weekend goes on so I’ll keep you posted.
Had some pretty odd experiences on the train which I’ll tell you about soon. But…crossing from Denmark to Germany the train got on a boat!! Each country has its own