Forget Floating Homes, Group Plans Floating Cities To Survive Climate Change

Coburn Palmer

Scientists, startup companies, and environmentalists are all searching for ways to survive the rising sea levels associated with climate change and one group wants to build private floating islands as a refuge against the coming tide.

The Seasteading Institute, a California nonprofit, plans to build a city of free floating islands in a South Pacific tropical lagoon to house those people who are going to be displaced by rising sea levels.

French Polynesia will host the project, whose initial pilot island will cost between $10 million to $50 million and will house a few dozen middle-income buyers, mostly from the developed world.

The floating island project will include solar power farms, sustainable aquaculture, and ocean-based wind farms, executive director Randolph Hencken told the New York Times.

"We have a vision that we're going to create an industry that provides floating islands to people who are threatened by rising sea levels."

Construction on the floating islands will begin next year, pending environmental and economic studies, and will take place in a specially designated economic zone. It was originally being funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel, a Donald Trump advisor, but he has since dropped out of the program.

Since then, the group has managed to raise some $2.5 million from more than 1,000 investors, but the idea of creating artificial floating islands in the South Pacific, where residents can last afford them, is raising a few eyebrows.

Some experts are questioning the location of the floating islands arguing that money spent in the area might be better targeted toward education or health care for residents, as Matthew Dornan, from the Australian National University told the New York Times.

"There is a tendency for very technologically focused solutions to the challenges in the Pacific without any real input from the Pacific Islanders themselves."

Climate change experts and engineers have been struggling to find a solution to the expected sea level rise associated with climate change for years and with the growing crack in the Antarctic ice shelf, the damage could be worse than previously thought.

In the low-lying Netherlands, the government has already been building floating apartment homes that are attached to sunken posts and can rise and fall with the water level. The country, at least a third of which is located at or below sea level, is particularly vulnerable to not rising sea levels, but rising river waters as well, as climate expert Pavel Kabat told Germany's Deutsche Welle.

"You can't just solve the problem with dykes, we have to change strategy. We shouldn't see water as a danger, but as a chance, as a challenge."

Their floating community concept is being considered by FEMA for at risk areas in the U.S. and a pilot project is being organized on the low-lying Pacific Island nation of Kiribati.

Would you live in a floating town?

[Featured Image by Floating City Project/Seasteading]