Can Venice’s Climate Emergency be used as a Catalyst for Action?

By Globus Correspondent, Lucia Mollea

Venice is regarded by many as a must-see. It’s historic buildings, dreamy canals, and famous “gondole”, hand-driven boats, have made tourists contemplate the timeless beauty of the city for centuries. Unfortunately, in recent decades, Venice and its population have been increasingly suffering from the brutal effects of climate change, particularly sea-level rising, or SLR (Camuffo et al, 2017), making the city a powerful example of global north’s vulnerability to Climate Change. 

Although the whole planet is at risk thanks to climate change, some areas are significantly more endangered than others (Molinaroli et al, 2019). Even without the additional stress of climate change, Venice is struggling; it’s location in a lagoon renders the City vulnerable to flooding and any SLR changes (Molinaroli et al, 2019). Moreover, the area has faced anthropogenic transformations since the 1400s, which have increased the flood risk, and made it harder to facilitate business-related activities (Molinaroli et al, 2019). Additionally, the city in the 21st Century relies on tourism as main source of income – which, despite favouring the economy, causes overpopulation and an increased level of pollution (Molinaroli et al, 2019). 

In addition to Venice’s existing structural geographical and demographic difficulties, climate change has been exacerbating some of the unfavourable conditions in the city (Ivajnšič et al, 2018). Increasing global temperatures are causing more and more SLR, causing high water events to become more and more frequent. Some studies estimate that 85% part of the historic city  will soon be flooded, an increase from 35% (Molinaroli et al, 2019).  

The problem of sea level rising is made more of a challenge in Venice due to the city’s soil. Local land subsidence (LLS) means that the soil in the City is naturally inclined to lower – a big issue due to the fact the historic buildings of Venice are anchored to the soil. The lowering trajectory of the ground, in conjunction with the rise of the water level endangers the Cities buildings.

Climate Emergency in Venice is becoming an increasingly tangible problem, with unusual and exceptionally frequent floods being the main symptom of the changes to our climate. Long-term and effective solutions are required to preserve such the artistic, historic and cultural heritage of Venice, but they cannot be found only in technical improvements and local provisions. Political and economic actors need to play a key role in fighting global temperature increases. Venice and it’s residents are in a unique position; the cities geographical location in the global north, together with the widespread recognition of the need to safeguard sites of historical and cultural importance could be used as a tool to encourage leaders in the Global North to make important, effective and global-scale decisions to tackle climate change.

Image by Henrique Ferreira via Unsplash

References: 

Camuffo, D., Bertolin, C., Schenal, P. (2017). “A novel proxy and the sea level rise in Venice, Italy, from 1350 to 2014”. Climatic Change, 143(1/2), 2017, pp. 73-86. 

Ivajnšič, D., Kaligarič, M., Fantinato, E., Del Vecchio, S., Buffa, G. (2018). “The fate of coastal habitats in the Venice Lagoon from the sea level rise perspective”. Applied Georgaphy, Elsevier LTD, 98(1), 2018, pp. 34-42 

Molinaroli, E., Guerzoni, S., Suman, D. (2019). “Do the Adaptations of Venice and Miami to Sea Level Rise Offer Lessons for Other Vulnerable Coastal Cities?”. Environmental Management, 64(4), 2019. 

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