In November 2019, Venice, which has always been prone to periodic flooding and has been sinking into the ocean ever since it was built, was effectively under several feet of water as historic floods covered the entire city.
Tourists traipsed through the famed St. Mark’s Square through knee-high water, while shopkeepers were forced to close. Curators of priceless and ancient works of art raced against time to save the pieces.
The city’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, estimated the damage at €1 billion (about $1.1 billion).
Authorities blamed the historic flooding on climate change and speculated that the city’s days could be numbered. Already bedeviled by routine flooding and sinking into the Adriatic Sea, it seemed unlikely that the city could survive many more floods like those of November 2019. Such floods are likely to be more frequent as sea levels rise.
Now, three months later, the city has the opposite problem: The canals are drying up.
While it’s the opposite problem to the city sinking into the sea, a dry Venice creates its own set of problems. For one thing, as the city largely lacks paved streets as most of the city’s business is handled by boat. That includes getting goods delivered here and there as well as transporting people — the city’s quarter of a million residents, plus millions of tourists, many of whom pay for a ride on a gondola. With those sea taxis and delivery boats unable to move about, it could bring the city to a standstill.
So is climate change to blame for the current situation bedeviling the ancient city? Not directly, says Sky News. It’s a simple matter of low tides. For centuries, the city has been at the mercy of tides, and at the moment, a historically low tide is leaving the city dry. However, climate change or no, the city has dealt with exceptionally low tides before and will deal with them again.
Meanwhile, the future of Venice continues to sit on a razor’s edge.
“This is a story of chronic mismanagement and a crumbling city of failed engineering projects and huge environmental challenges. It’s more than that, though. Encapsulated on one lagoon city are so many of the challenges we are all facing,” wrote Sky News’ former Europe correspondent Mark Stone in November.