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The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World

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What if Atlantis wasn't a myth but an early precursor to a new age of great flooding? Across the globe, scientists and civilians alike are noticing rapidly rising sea levels and higher and higher tides pushing more water directly into the places we live, from our most vibrant, historic cities to our last remaining traditional coastal villages. With each crack in the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica, and each tick upwards of Earth's thermometer, we are moving closer to the brink of broad disaster.

By century's end, hundreds of millions of people will be retreating from the world's shores as our coasts become inundated and our landscapes transformed. From island nations to the world's major cities, coastal regions will disappear. Engineering projects to hold back the water are bold and may buy some time. Yet despite international efforts and tireless research, there is no permanent solution--no barriers to erect or walls to build--that will protect us in the end from the drowning of the world as we know it.

The Water Will Come is the definitive account of the coming water, why and how this will happen, and what it will all mean. As he travels across twelve countries and reports from the front lines, acclaimed journalist Jeff Goodell employs fact, science, and first-person, on-the-ground journalism to show vivid scenes from what already is becoming a water world.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published October 24, 2017

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About the author

Jeff Goodell

10 books127 followers
Jeff Goodell's latest book The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World was published by Little, Brown in 2017. It was picked as one of the 50 best non-fiction books of the year by The Washington Post as well as a New York Times Critics' Top Book of 2017.

His previous books include How to Cool the Planet: Geoengineering and the Audacious Quest to Fix Earth's Climate and Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future. The New York Times called Big Coal “a compelling indictment of one of the country’s biggest, most powerful and most antiquated industries…well-written, timely, and powerful.”

Goodell is the author of three other books, including Sunnyvale, a memoir about growing up in Silicon Valley that was selected as a New York Times Notable Book. Our Story, an account of the nine miners trapped in a Pennsylvania coal mine, was a New York Times bestseller. He is a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, and his work has appeared in many publications, including The New Republic, The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine, and Wired.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 576 reviews
Profile Image for carol..
1,513 reviews7,690 followers
August 30, 2019
For too long the national climate debate has centered on "is it real?" and "is it man-made?" How this occurred is likely the subject of another book, but what Goodell has done here is expose how thousands of powerful people (but only thousands! They need support!) are currently working to mitigate the effects of climate change while simultaneously reassuring the public there is absolutely no need to panic or change. Ah, politics. Can you inspire change without fear?

The book is a curious blend of science and politics, and seeing where they may or may not inform each other. Chapters include:
'The Oldest Story Ever Told'--archaeological-era flooding and how primitive societies coped
'Living with Noah'--early Miami-Dade Florida developers literally selling swampland
'New Climate Land'--changes in the ice sheets and problems with various models
'Air Force One'--meeting with President Obama in Alaska; consensus politics
'Real Estate Roulette'--the economy of Miami is real estate.  How it's reacting.
'The Ferrari on the Seafloor'--Venice's challenge, the MOSE barrier
'Walled Cities'--NYC Mayor de Blasio and the 'Big U,' the billion-dollar wall around lower Manhattan
'Island States'--the Paris climate accords, the Marshall Islands
'Weapon of Mass Destruction'--Norfolk, VA, the largest naval base in the U.S. is especially vulnerable, as is the largest air force base, located in the Florida panhandle
'Climate Apartheid'--Lagos, Nigeria and a new island city, Eko Atlantic, a gated community
'Miami is Drowning'--Miami's current interventions to manage sea water rise
'The Long Goodbye'--financial challenges, climate refuges, legal challenges to the government refusal to maintain unsafe properties and roads.

The book is full of examples in double-think, with regional variations. There's the Prepare-and-Acknowledge-But-Keep-the-Party-Going approach used in Miami; We're-Building-A-Wall-and-Everything's-Fine approach used in Venice and various seaports; Prepare-But-Publicly-Deny-Climate-Change strategy currently used by the largest U.S. military installation in Norfolk, VA, as well as small-town mayors along the mid-Atlantic Coast; the Prepare-and-We-Will-Thrive-Because-We're-NYC variation; the We-Are-Probably-Screwed approach of the Marshall Islanders (sadly, the most realistic of the bunch) contrasted with the We-Will-Throw-A-Shit-Ton-of-Money-At-It approach of a nearby island U.S. Naval installation.

In my ignorance, I had equated the concept of rising seas with the popular but incorrect 'bathtub' model: you add water and it rises all around the edges. But due to all sorts of fun things (mostly geophysics, I gather, including land composition, topography, and the Great Currents), all locations will not see equal water rise. I don't know if that's better or worse, honestly, but it does mean that places will be unequally affected, which is always a problem. Goodell concentrates on the U.S., and for a couple of reasons, Miami and New York City are going to be particularly affected by sea rise.

I had also thought climate change would be relatively straightforward inasmuch as rising seas, increasing temperatures, and increasing ferocity of 'weather events,' can be, but it turns out, there's a lot of sub-problems there. I'm an inlander, so I never knew about all the variations in tides with years/moons/weather patterns, but it does mean that those things will become more intrusive on a monthly or yearly cycle (much like an 'el Nino' winter weather pattern) for low-lying areas. This will mean regular and expensive bills to flood insurance, city resources, and the U.S. disaster relief funds.

Then there's the fresh-water issue. Oceans are, obviously, saline. Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of food grown along deltas where freshwater eventually runs into the ocean (the Nile Delta, deltas in Vietnam, and Bangladesh). These food sources might easily be lost, resulting in large populations of hungry people. The microcosm of the Marshall Islands already shows how rising water infiltrates the water table beneath the island, turning previously freshwater sources more brackish, and leading breadfruit trees to die of salt poisoning.

Flooding also brings a host of bacteria problems: most sewer systems end up over-burdened, as they were never meant to cope with that much water. Even ones that were may fail as the water table rises. Then there is the non-sewer system waste systems--many, many parts of America (and 30% of Miami-Dade County) rely on septic systems, which aren't flood proof. So a flood releases bacteria into the environment. Sampling of the water during a recent Miami-area flood showed E.coli bacteria at 300 times recommended 'safe' levels (p.247). And that shit--literally--don't disappear with the water, my friends.

In the chapter on Norfolk, VA, and the U.N. Climate Agreement, Goodell makes a decent case for how this is potentially a national security issue, because these world-wide changes will undoubtedly result in more refugees.

It wasn't as depressing as I thought, mainly because I did learn a lot, and there are people that are attempting to mitigate change.  I gave it four stars because at times it felt like a collection of magazine articles (which is how Goodell started) and a little less cohesive than I would like. I also felt, for what was essentially a reporter piece, that he interjected his opinion more than he should. I appreciated his honesty, particularly when he was interviewing influencers such as President Obama, but I think his questions veered into being more about his own ego and getting a 'gotcha' moment. For the most part, though, I thought he was sensitive to the challenges his interviewees faced.

I do recommend it, for no other reason than to cut through the hype and to understand the grand scale of both the problems we are all facing and the solutions they will require.

Site to help one think about one's own personal carbon use:

Wait! There's hope: Leading solutions:
Profile Image for Julie.
Author 6 books1,698 followers
August 25, 2018
I read The Water Will Come under hazy yellow skies, with the scent of woodsmoke hanging heavy in hot air, my car dusted with a light coating of ash. It took effort to breathe, the air thick and sickly. Forest fires all around me: searing British Columbia to the north, racing through the Cascades Mountains to the east, Olympics to the west, Oregon to the south.

We endure damp and dreary winters for the glory that is summer in the Pacific Northwest; months of blue skies, gentle warmth and sunshine. But I fear this is the new norm for summers in this pristine place of sea and mountains. The world is on fire and at the same time, sinking fast into the sea. And we're not even close to being ready.
Sea-level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity. It will reshape our world in ways most of us can only dimly imagine.

What do forest fires in the West have to do with melting ice sheets and rising oceans? I hadn't put the two together until reading this urgent, devastating, vital read.
A backpacker’s campfire (in the Western United States) throws out a spark, a tree ignites, and soon the mountainside is burning and the soot is drifting up, some of it lifted into the jet stream and settling into Greenland, darkening the snow and accelerating the transformation of ice into water, which runs down into the North Atlantic and eventually into Miami, Shanghai, New York, Venice, Mumbai, Lagos, and deeper still.

Goodell, a longtime editor for Rolling Stone, concentrates much of his narrative in Miami and Miami Beach, exposing the folly and corruption that built these sand castle communities, the naïvete and stupidity and ostrich-head-burying that will eventually wash them away. But Goodell also takes us to Manhattan and the Jersey Shore to view the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (2012), the heartbreaking plunge of Venice, the water ghettos of Lagos, and the immediate peril in the Marshall Islands, Alaska, and Greenland.

As intensively studied as global warming and climate change have been in recent years, not even the most dire predictions anticipated the rate at which the seas are rising. The 2015 Paris Agreement was predicated on studies that assumed the sea would rise, at the most three feet by 2100. Goodell introduces us to the current models that indicate the rise may be well over SIX feet. We're going down, quite literally.
For anyone living in Miami Beach or South Brooklyn or Boston’s Back Bay or any other low-lying coastal neighborhood the difference between three feet of sea level rise by 2100 and six feet is the difference between a wet but livable city and a submerged city.

What can we do? We have two choices: work immediately toward slowing the temperature rise of our air by ending our use of and reliance on fossil fuels, which we can replace with clean, renewable sources of energy: wind and solar. This is happening, of course, on a small scale, but hardly at the rate needed to slow the rise of temperatures and seas. And with a Congress and White House in denial about climate change, the United States is complicit in making this planet more unsustainable by the minute.

The other tact is to adapt. Goodell highlights several innovative and not a few harebrained ideas to live with or withstand rising seas or the flooding that accompanies hurricanes and typhoons. Of course, millions around the world live in communities perched on the edge of disaster, and not just the entitled who claim South Beach; from Bangladesh to Boston, poor communities are vulnerable to the inevitable. Climate change leads directly to conflict and war-Syria is the most immediate example. The International Organization for Migration estimates there will be 200 million climate refugees by 2050.

I couldn't put this down, as upsetting a read as it is. Goodell made the facts accessible and fascinating- he is as superb a storyteller as he is insightful a journalist. This is essential reading.

I'm grateful for today's rain, not the least for those battling these fires on the front line. But the rain can't wash away the truth. We're going down, quite literally.

Profile Image for Bam cooks the books ;-).
1,815 reviews223 followers
November 7, 2017
The water will come. Anyone who has ever lived near water knows that water will find its way in if it has a mind to. This book is largely about rising sea levels caused by climate change and melting glaciers and its impact on our society, for the truth is our climate is changing and causing unusual weather patterns and problems around the world.

Personal experiences: Our midwest home has been flooded twice by creek water in the last ten years after torrential rain storms. And while we were in Aruba recently, which has a desert climate, the area was hit by a thunderstorm that dumped three inches of rain in about an hour, blowing the manhole covers off sewers and flooding the streets with a foot of water. The local residents were amazed--they NEVER get rains like that.

Whatever happened to nice, gentle, soaking rains? Do you know what it's like to be scared when it rains? Even as a child growing up in suburban Detroit, I remember sitting on the upper steps of our basement watching sewer water backing up and wondering how high it would come. That problem was later solved by a twelve-town drain system but the frightening memories still linger.

The National Flood Insurance Program is $23 billion in debt. Who is paying for flood insurance claims? The taxpayer, of course. We are building where we shouldn't be. We are building in floodplains, on reclaimed swamps, on the oceanfronts even though higher sea levels are being predicted and hurricanes happen frequently.

Jeff Goodell is a journalist who has interviewed scientists, climate experts, city planners, politicians, flood victims, architects, geo-engineers, etc. to further his understanding of what the situation is and what might be done to solve the problems. For the water will come.

"If we want to minimize the impact of sea-level rise in the next century, here's how we do it: stop burning fossil fuels and move to higher ground. We wouldn't even have to stop burning fossil fuels tomorrow--if we did it by 2050, that would be good enough. It wouldn't entirely halt sea-level rise, but it would avoid the worst of it."

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for providing me with an arc of this important new book for an honest review.
Profile Image for Stephen Selbst.
408 reviews7 followers
November 28, 2017
This is a journalist's book posing as serious writing. The potential for coastal flooding caused by rapidly rising sea levels is genuine and acute.This is a superficial look at the problem, unnecessarily padded with character sketches of some of the politicians, engineers, scientists and activists involved. Their lives may be more or less interesting, but their individual stories are nearly irrelevant to the issues the book half-heartedly addresses. This is a topic worthy of a more serious and sophisticated analysis than this book presents. I was disappointed; it had generally good reviews and I cannot imagine why.
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,409 reviews316 followers
February 3, 2018
Jeff Goodell traveled the world to report on how rising sea levels are impacting human society across the globe. His new book The Water Will Come takes readers to shrinking Alaskan glaciers with President Obama and into the flood-prone homes of impoverished people living in Lagos, Nigeria.

"By that time, I'll be dead, so what does it matter?" Quote from a Florida real estate developer, The Water Will Come

I long wondered how bad it would get before people broke down and changed how we live and do things. I consider how Americans gave up comforts during WWII rationing, all pulling together for a great cause we all believed in.

I don't see that happening today.

As Goodell points out, "fossil fuel empire" Koch industries money has swayed government. Private citizens can recycle and lower the heat and ride bicycles but the impact is small. As long as governments are more worried about big business than national security endangered by climate change we can't alter what is coming.

What? you ask; national security?

Well, consider that military bases across the nation and world are located in areas that WILL FLOOD. Like the Norfolk Naval Base, the Langley Air Force Base, and NASA's Wallops Flight Facility! Along with the financial district of New York City and expensive Florida beach front homes, we will be losing the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site in the Marshall Islands, where 12,000 Americans operate space weapons programs and track NASA research.

So if the loss of Arctic ice and habitat and the Inuit way of life doesn't concern you, perhaps this information will.

So many issues are raised in the book. Consider: We have not established how to deal with climate change refugees. Where are these people going to go? Countries in Europe, along with the U.S., are closing borders--the same countries whose fossil energy use is the primary cause of climate change behind rising sea levels! What is their responsibility?

There are a lot of ideas of how to deal with rising sea levels, including the building of walls and raising cities. It seems, though, that people are more interested in coping with the change than addressing the root cause of climate change. We just don't want to give up fossil fuels.

The book is highly readable for the general public. Although the cover photo made me think of an action disaster movie, the books is a well-researched presentation of "fact, science, and first-person, on-the-ground journalism."

I received a free book from the publisher through Goodreads.
Profile Image for Lorna.
649 reviews352 followers
September 7, 2018
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World was a riveting look at global warming by journalist Jeff Goodell and its manifestations throughout the world, primarily focusing on Miami, New York City, New Orleans, and Venice as well as many other countries, including the Marshall Islands. Goodell not only discusses the effects of global warming but also the rapidly rising seal levels and higher and higher tides as well as the effects of rising temperatures on the great ice sheets of the Arctic and Antarctica. I was particularly interested in Miami as we have property near the coast in southeast Florida where we spend time each year. As we have heard, "elections have consequences," and that is never truer than today as we see the rollback and elimination of many of the EPA standards and guidelines as well as blatant denial and ridicule of the concept of climate change. Our votes are crucial, beginning at the local level as well as the national level.

"It begins with this: the climate is warming, the world's great ice sheets are melting, and the water is rising. . . Sea-level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity. It will reshape our world in ways most of us can only dimly imagine."

Or as Harvard philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger put it: "At every level the greatest obstacle to transforming the world is that we lack the clarity and imagination to conceive that it could be different."

"Yes, we have had a lot of problems and yes, it will require some radical thinking. But I think this is an exciting time. One of the greatest strengths of Miami is that it's still a new city, growing and forming its identity. There is so much energy and money and creativity here. We just need to put it to work in a new way."
--Reinaldo Borges
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,119 reviews1,113 followers
February 5, 2021
A cross between eye-opening and frightening. I know about the sea water rising but it has not really clicked yet, all the urgency. The book, which is very easy to read, with examples of what people (including politicians, scientists, military, urban planners) all over the world are doing (or not) about this incoming apocalypse. Would love to have more Southern representation though.

Anyway, the science stuff is easy to digest so no worries about that part. What worries me is that even during the last World Urban Forum, sea rise was not a topic. Resilient coastal cities remain a far-away dream. Heck, even the Dutch could not find a real solution yet.

Well. Now I know I will be displaced and became a climate refugee in 30 years, so...yeah there goes my beach house retirement plan. Anyway, at least my diving license is going to be useful after all, since we are going to celebrate Jakarta's 523th anniversary in scuba suits! But, since the water will be full with toxins and bacterias no neoprene could handle, shall I buy a boat instead and learn how to sail? Or maybe get a property in the mountain from now and learn how to build houses on stilts like the Bajau people (who have bigger spleen than us, BTW). It is not that long from now.

The NFBC had a Q&A with the author when the book became one of our monthly reads:
Profile Image for William Liggett.
Author 1 book241 followers
January 11, 2018
I just returned from a Christmas break in the South Bay part of Los Angeles where multimillion-dollar houses have been built along the strand next to the beach. I was curious why no one seems to be concerned about sea level rise. On the East Coast, and southern Florida in particular, the sea is already encroaching with every storm and high tide.

Jeff Goodell's book, The Water Will Come, provides some answers. He describes how many parts of Florida were swamplands before they were drained and sold as valuable real estate. Other neighborhoods were created by dredging sand from the seafloor and pumping it onto the shore. In spite of this history all shorelines and seaside cities around the world are at significant risk due to the melting ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. Goodell describes the plight of Venice, Italy and the efforts taken to postpone the ultimate fate of these places so important in human history.

This book is nonfiction and yet describes a future that sounds dystopian. It is no longer a question of if the water will rise, but rather when and how much. Goodell describes a time he spent interviewing President Obama on his trip to Alaska to draw attention to the melting glaciers and villages threatened by sea level rise. My impression is that the message of the book is not to frighten or discourage, but to paint a realistic picture of what our world will be like if we ignore the signs and continue spewing greenhouse gases unabated.
Profile Image for Jamie Smith.
478 reviews68 followers
August 31, 2020
We are so screwed. Disaster is coming, and we are just going to sit here until it hits, then ask why we weren’t prepared. No one knows how much the seas will rise by 2100: three feet, six, fifteen? There are scientists supporting all of those numbers. Any solution, even for the lowest estimate, will be horrendously expensive, and the uncertainty of the scope of the problem, combined with the lack of political foresight and courage, the next-election-only time horizon, and the aversion to raising taxes to pay for solutions, means nothing will get done. Cities will flood, drinking water will be contaminated, and the costs for remediation will be so high, with so many places needing aid, that the government will have no choice but to leave people to deal with their problems on their own. On top of that, no one knows how many climate refugees there will be by mid century, but 200 million seems to be a popular guess.

Each chapter of the book focuses on a specific place, and uses it to illuminate the larger issues at stake. Miami is sinking in seawater and sewage; New York is increasingly vulnerable to another storm like 2012’s Sandy; Venice is also sinking, with a huge pork barrel project underway that is doing little but lining the pockets of corrupt politicians and contractors; many Pacific islands face the existential threat of vanishing altogether; Lagos, Nigeria, is building a three square mile artificial island off the coast, so at least the wealthy will have a place to go. Only in the Netherlands, where they have lived with high water and low land for a very long time, do they seem to have a realistic grasp of the problem, and they understand that their options are limited, and they can’t address everything. Back to the United States, where even in the face of unmistakable evidence of impending disaster, denial is the primary response, along with a childlike belief that technology will save us. Republican Congressmen and mayors, knowing well their political base, continue to deny that there is any problem at all. As the author succinctly puts it, people who are concerned about climate change probably didn’t vote for Trump anyway.

This is going to be bad. It is going to be much, much worse that even those who accept rising waters believe. War, disease, political unrest, mass migrations, economic collapse, and more. We are so screwed.
Profile Image for Bandit.
4,447 reviews444 followers
October 27, 2017
It's October and in theory I should be reading something scary. Then again, this is pretty scary. Jeff Goodell, a journalist and a climate expert, creates a hauntingly vivid picture of a very wet world to come. Traveling the world, visiting coastal cities across the globe that can potentially become the next Atlantis, he talks to experts and locals to gain a well rounded perspective of the threats they are facing and the realities of their lives. This isn't a mere alarmist reporting, it's a thoroughly researched and compelling account of a very serious and fairly imminent danger, it doesn't just raise questions, it offers solutions or possibilities thereof by showing how it's being addressed around the world. It's very well written and reads at an almost thriller like pace (no small feat for nonfiction), depressing, of course, but it inspires thinking and certainly a conversation starter, ever so timely and then at the same time...ever so frustrating, because this is precisely the sort of thing the majority of population dismisses either due to their inability to intellectually grasp the concept or greed or a combination of both. Climate change deniers would label this book as sensationalist journalism. And those who know the score don't need further proof or convincing. So that's the frustrating angle...the message will not reach the target audience, nothing will improve, it fact recent politics have done such a tragic backslide, that alone will probably take ages to undo. It may not be too late yet, but for anyone of reasonable intelligence following the news it's difficult to stay optimistic. It may very well be aquaapocalypse after all. Why not read this smart informative account of some play by play international water action and then sit back and maybe rethink a Miami condo purchase. Thanks Netgalley.
Profile Image for Emma Sea.
2,175 reviews1,045 followers
June 4, 2018
A very easy read that focuses on the upcoming consequences of sea level rise and does not attempt to convince with hard science. If you're not convinced now, no book will do it. Many elegant and poignant parts that wrenched my soul.
Profile Image for Lena.
1,139 reviews236 followers
April 24, 2019
From Obama to Marshal Island Royalty, the villains and heroes of Miami, Dutch architects and die hard New Jersey coastal residents, Goodell has gathered the screaming voices of the climate change zeitgeist.

Well organized, informative, and entertaining - this is a must read.
Profile Image for Jessaka.
870 reviews105 followers
January 31, 2022
I have told this story many times, but maybe it's worth telling it once again. I was stacking books at a library in Berkeley when I came across 1 of Edgar cayce's books. I was curious about it so I looked inside. Inside was a map of the United States that he had drawn up in the 1920s after he had been in a trance state. The United States was covered in water. I would say maybe 1⁄3 of the United States. I never forgot that map. Sometime in the Last few years, I saw a map like it in the national geographic magazine. Of course, it was not exactly the same. I just found that interesting When I really don't consider psychics all that correct in there prophecies.

This author talks about the waters that will rise all over the world. He went to the different areas like Alaska Florida Venice and talk about what was going on there, how the waters were rising, etc.

Of course he has no answers, and I don't believe there are any answers. But This book was a wonderful read and I give it 5 stars.
Profile Image for Tyler J Gray.
Author 2 books213 followers
April 21, 2019
Very readable, well written, and packed with information. It shows how much work went into making this book and making sure nothing was left out, while making it accessible at the same time.

It's horrifying what is happening to our planet. People are already suffering. Evidence for climate change is everywhere, just open your eyes. This book will show you. I already believed in climate change and knew it's a problem, but I had no idea just how much. How places like Miami, Nigeria, Venice, are struggling to hold back or live with the sea. People are even getting sick as the flooding causes issues with septic systems and they are literally surrounded by shit. It's disgusting. It's real.

It isn't too late. Not yet. But it will be if we don't get our heads out the sand. The sea will come. And many will either have to get out of the way, or drown. Good luck trying to argue with the sea (but people sure are trying!).

This book shows we can fix this. At least fix it enough that we can survive, adapt, avoid the worst of it. But only if we act now. How are there still people that are denying climate change? Please, read this book. The future depends on it.
Profile Image for Rob.
84 reviews13 followers
April 21, 2019
Started well, with a real feel of depth and importance. Gradually segued into character sketches and mood pieces betraying it's journalistic origins. I would have liked a little more on the knock on effects of sea level rise, something to open the eyes of people who don't live on the coast and think it won't affect them.
A good read with scary clarity in places, but could have been so much more.
Profile Image for Andreas.
482 reviews127 followers
January 22, 2021
Just invest the 5o minutes of Goodall's presentation covering and updating the essentials of this book.

The book itself doesn't give too many additional insights, as the elaboration stays more on the surface. This is certainly more in essay style than a scientific rendering (which I didn't expect). But most often, I felt detached by the author's descriptions of interview partner's clothing or facial expression. I bought the hardcover edition, because I saw that there are numerous graphs and pictures in it - mostly, they aren't really worth the space.
It focuses mostly on the U.S. East coast with Miami as an epicenter of flooding and hurricanes, but also talking about New York, New Jersey, and the Norfolk military base. There are chapters about Venice, and the Netherlands, but you will find that the book is mostly dedicated to a U.S. reader concerning locations and politics.
Profile Image for Oli K. .
29 reviews
June 11, 2018
I didn't like this book for a number of reasons. Even though it did offer some interesting facts and food for thought like contaminated water and how it affects Miami citizens, the Architectural problem of Venice and floating houses of Laos as a solution for poor drowning regions, I fond the style and structure of the book incredibly BORING, weird and underdeveloped. Seriously, when I bought this book I thought to myself" Yes! This is something really epic! Like a dystopian tragedy but based on scientific facts." What was really inside: a description of Obama and how sad his eyes looked when he spoke about Alaska, the hair of a person who was writing about climate change and how autumn leaves were falling into the water near the bridge in Venice.
Very bad. Very very bad and disappointing. All the nerve and tragedy that should have been there had been wasted in a swirl of useless descriptions and facts and once again I hated the style this book was written in.
Profile Image for Melora.
575 reviews140 followers
July 25, 2019
This is, as you'd expect, a pretty discouraging book. Goodell does keep it interesting, covering sea rise related issues from a variety of angles and interviewing experts in coastal cities on topics ranging from sea rise resistant architecture, septic tank related problems, challenges facing military bases and installations, flood insurance and the obligations of governments to those who rebuild in high risk areas, etc. Occasionally he suggests small areas of hopefulness, such as architects with ideas about floating housing or scientists with plans to spray reflective particles into the atmosphere. And he only touches on sea level rise related issues like massive population migrations, increased disease, and famines resulting from loss of arable land and destruction of sea life due to pollution. Actually, the aspect he focused on that I found most depressing was the refusal to even acknowledge the problem among politicians bowing to special interests. There's an interview with a captain at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia in which the officer's circumlocutions in explaining the raising of four piers would be comic if the situation weren't so horrible. The officer is fully aware that rising seas necessitate the new construction, but he and others planning to maintain our military readiness are forced into absurd explanations because phrases like “climate change” and “sea level rise” are verboten. Climate change and the rising seas are a daunting enough challenge without the roadblocks posed by politicians selling out their country and their planet for short term political gain.

While I was, of course, worried about climate change before reading this, Goodell introduced me to some new aspects to worry about. So..... thanks, Jeff? On the plus side, though, he proclaims our impending doom in an engaging way.
Profile Image for Jess.
727 reviews41 followers
November 3, 2017
Thanks to Little, Brown and Company via NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book. It has not influenced my thoughts or opinions about this book.

Throughout this book, Goodell explores geographic regions and innovative technologies to see what can be done to reduce the impact of rising water. Ultimately, there are some questions that emerge:

- How can we depoliticize climate change and show the real and impending impact on human civilization?
- How will governments address buy-outs, flood damage, and relocation of peoples, towns, and cities?
- How will governments and societies address climate refugees, whose numbers may swell far above and beyond political refugees?
- How can we stop being so short-sighted with our thinking about investment defending communities against climate change?
- Will the Arctic be a new battleground in the fight for fossil fuels and developmental resources?

Overall, this is a well-researched book. I was pleased that Goodell explored not only Western (primarily American) concerns, but also those of the Marshallese and Nigerian. I did feel like the chapters dealing with Miami real estate developers and the role of nuclear and military facilities on the Eastern Seaboard to be a bit of a slog, but worth it to get to the other chapters.
Profile Image for Amanda Van Parys.
545 reviews54 followers
April 25, 2018
Well, that was scary. As a person who lives in FL and within 5 miles of the shore, this is horrifying. During the hurricane season of 2017, I was talking to my dad after Irma barely missed a direct hit on us in the Tampa Bay area saying some of the exact things outlined in this book, and I quote: "FL is f*cked, we need to get out of here."

And I'm completely fine leaving the godforsaken land of FL, in fact, I want to. But I'll tell you one thing, it's hard to just pack up your life and move away; it's hard financially and emotionally, and for millions of people, it just isn't an option until there's no options left.

The Water Will Come outlines not only economic implications we're facing from global warming but also the social and cultural. There's so much at stake since so much of the world's population lives on shore or very close to them -- and even if you don't believe, THE WATER WILL COME. It will come for us whether you believe in global warming or not!

Read for the 2018 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: A book about nature
Profile Image for Radiantflux.
424 reviews403 followers
December 13, 2017
67th book for 2017.

A disappointingly superficial account of an important topic.

Each chapter seems to involve Goodell meeting some important person who isn't aware/doesn't care about sea-level rise, and at some point Goodell will be wading through water at some high-tide here or there (New York, Miami, Venice etc). There was way too much emphasis on Miami and not enough of a global perspective.

If you haven't read any other book on global warming this book would be OK, but there are much better ones already published and cover the topic in a richer fashion.
Profile Image for Ryan.
975 reviews
February 26, 2021
Published in 2017, Jeff Goodell's The Water Will Come is one journalist's attempt to broadly explain what the rising seas will mean. He travels to Miami, the Netherlands, Venice, the Marshall Islands, New York City, Arctic glaciers... But there is more here than a whirlwind tour, and I was particularly struck by what the rising water means for climate adaptation.

Adaptation seems like a bit of a dirty word when I read green discourse. Here's why. Typical greens like Al Gore will point out that Miami is dealing with climate change now because of regular flooding. They have to build up, and quickly. Therefore we should mitigate by rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But anti-green greens, a designation I'm making up here, will point out that cities like Miami are building up, and quickly, which demonstrates humanity's endless capacity to solve problems and to adapt. Anti-green greens generally don't emphasize mitigation, and so adaptation is rhetorically associated with a sort of moral hazard that nurtures a false confidence that allows for continuing to emit 40 gigatons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere annually.

(It seems obvious to yours truly that we are adapting now and will have to continue doing so, and it also seems obvious that we should mitigate like crazy.)

Adaptation requires money, of course, but Miami has a lot of money, as one of President Obama’s advisors suggests. They're already raising sidewalks, so we should not underestimate the potential for adaptation to pay off. And yet. Some of the best adaptation sequences center on Bruce Mowry, an engineer busy building all sorts of projects to counter flood waters. But Mowry will point out that the adaptations have to happen now while the economic engine is still firing. If it sputters, the city is more likely to sink. This point may be worth underlining. When Goodell interviews Miami’s upper crust, they mostly come across self-centred and short-sighted. Should we bet that they’ll dig in? It seems more likely they'll protect the most expensive real estate, which they own or will own, and leave everyone else to suffer the consequences. Of course, they might just take their money and run to greener pastures. One can't help but think about how often the wealthy fantasize about sea steading to escape taxation. Within this framework, adaptation starts to sound like an excuse elites use to withdraw wealth from fossil fuels a little longer because they're confident the costs of rising waters will mostly not affect them and will instead either be covered by public funds or sink middle class home owners.

Another uncomfortable question is whether we should save these cities. Venice seems wonderful. I'm not sure the Jersey Shore is wonderful, but... Bruce Springsteen. And regular folks often love their homes for reasons that don't need much unpacking. Then again, it costs a lot to bail out these coastal cities. Will we raise insurance rates or taxes? Should the cost of a home decrease, incentivizing people to move to these places but also reflecting that they're a longterm risk, or should mortgages become more restrictive, adding pressure to prospective homeowners?

Update 2021: https://www.npr.org/2021/02/22/966428...

Profile Image for Emily.
694 reviews2,004 followers
Want to read
August 20, 2018
The Austin Public Library just recommended this to me so I am leaning into my tinfoil hat
Profile Image for Book Shark.
733 reviews135 followers
October 3, 2018
The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World by Jeff Goodell

“The Water Will Come” is a very good book that realistically depicts the future we are creating for our children and grandchildren. Contributing editor at Rolling Stone and the author of five books including the award-winning Audacious Quest to Fix Earth’s Climate takes the reader on a dive into the rising water levels of our planet. This insightful 332-page book includes the following twelve chapters: 1. The Oldest Story Ever Told 2. Living with Noah 3. New Climate Land 4. Air Force One 5. Real Estate Roulette 6. The Ferrari on the Seafloor 7. Walled Cities 8. Island States 9. Weapon of Mass Destruction 10. Climate Apartheid 11. Miami Is Drowning and 12. The Long Goodbye.

1. A well researched and written book.
2. A critical topic in the hands of an excellent author, the impact of climate change on our planet.
3. Good use of visual material.
4. The Prologue sets the stage for what’s to come. “It begins with this: the climate is warming, the world’s great ice sheets are melting, and the water is rising. This is not a speculative idea, or the hypothesis of a few wacky scientists, or a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese. Sea-level rise is one of the central facts of our time, as real as gravity. It will reshape our world in ways most of us can only dimly imagine.”
5. The impact to the United States is discussed. “One recent study estimated that with six feet of sea-level rise, nearly $1 trillion worth of real estate in the United States will be underwater, including one in eight homes in Florida. If no significant action is taken, global damages from sea-level rise could reach $100 trillion a year by 2100.”
6. Interesting factoids provided. “Most Biblical scholars believe that the story of Noah is based on an even earlier flood story in The Epic of Gilgamesh, which is the tale of the adventures of a Mesopotamian king that was written two thousand years before the Bible.”
7. The city of Miami plays a prominent role. “Eventually, changes were made. The City of Miami passed the first building code in the United States (it later became the basis for the first nationwide building code).”
8. The source of future flooding. “Most of the water that will drown Miami and New York and Venice and other coastal cities will come from two places: Antarctica and Greenland. Often you hear about the disappearance of the snows on Mount Kilimanjaro or the glaciers in Patagonia, but in the context of drowning cities, land-based glaciers won’t contribute much. What really matters is what happens on the two big blocks of ice at either end of the Earth.”
9. The Paris Agreement discussed. “The Paris agreement was widely viewed as a last-ditch effort to get the nations of the world to commit to reducing carbon pollution to a level that might limit the worst impacts of climate change, including slowing sea-level rise in the decades to come.”
10. Issues dealing with climate change. “The third and biggest issue is, nobody wants to spend money to build a more resilient city because nobody owns the risk.”
11. Irony. “It’s one of the great ironies that when the oil and gas barons of Russia and Brazil make money, they have been sinking it into Miami, a city that is literally drowning as a result of the combustion of the fossil fuels that made them rich. The whole point is that Miami is considered a safe investment.”
12. Flood insurance. “In the United States, virtually all flood insurance is provided through the National Flood Insurance Program, which was created in 1968 in the wake of Hurricane Betsy, which caused massive flooding in the Gulf states. In the aftermath, many commercial insurers refused to sell insurance to people who lived in flood zones. To fill the gap, and to give protection to the often poor homeowners who lived in low-lying areas, the NFIP was born.” “When people have to pay more and own more of the risk themselves, their decisions about where and how they live will change.”
13. An interesting look at how Venice is handling climate change. “But the idea that won out was the construction of high-tech mobile barriers at the inlets of the lagoon that would rise to protect the city when a storm approached, then lower to allow the lagoon to remain connected to the sea.”
14. The potential impact to New York. “Climate science is getting better and better, and storm intensity and sea-level rise projections are getting more and more alarming. It fundamentally calls into question New York’s existence. The water is coming, and the long-term implications are gigantic.”
15. The goal of poor nations. “One way to view the past thirty years of climate talks is as an extended attempt by poor nations to extract compensation from rich nations for stealing their future.”
16. Facts! “According to the World Resources Institute, between 1850 and 2011, the United States was the source of 27 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions; the European Union, including the UK, 25 percent; China, 11 percent; Russia, 8 percent; and Japan, 4 percent. “To make calculating easy,” Gerrard wrote, “let’s assume that 100 million people will need new homes outside their own countries by 2050. Under a formula based on historic greenhouse gas emissions, the United States would take in 27 million people; Europe, 25 million; and so on.”
17. An interesting look at the impact to our military. “The scale of the military assets that are at risk due to our rapidly changing climate is mind-boggling. The Pentagon manages a global real estate portfolio that includes over 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land—virtually all of it will be impacted by climate change in some way. And it’s not just active bases and military installations that are in trouble. The headquarters of the US Southern Command, which is in charge of military operations in South and Central America as well as the Caribbean, is located in a low-lying area near Miami International Airport that is already vulnerable to flooding. The United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, is perched right on the edge of Chesapeake Bay and is often inundated at high tide.”
18. Eye-opening accounts. “Several years ago, former state attorney general Ken Cuccinelli launched a witch-hunt against noted climate scientist Michael Mann, subpoenaing documents and private emails in an attempt to discredit his work. The Republican-dominated Virginia legislature has effectively banned the discussion of climate change—one legislator called sea-level rise “a left-wing term.””
19. Impact to the world. “In the world as it is, evidence that climate change is an engine of conflict is clear. The best example is Syria. In 2015, an exhaustive study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that rising CO2 pollution had made the 2007–2010 drought in Syria twice as likely to occur, and that the four-year drought had a “catalytic effect” on political unrest in the area.”
20. Efforts to adapt to rising water levels. “In Mexico, a man named Richart Sowa has made a floating island out of 250,000 used plastic bottles stuffed into recycled fruit sacks.”
21. What can be done. “Raising flood insurance rates to better reflect the true costs of living in risky places can help. But the simplest way to get people to move out of low-lying areas is simply to buy them out.” “If we want to minimize the impact of sea-level rise in the next century, here’s how we do it: stop burning fossil fuels and move to higher ground.”
22. Includes Bibliography.

1. No links to notes.
2. Does not expose with gusto the culprits behind the misinformation machine against climate change. Yes some politicians are mentioned but not with the emphasis expected and warranted.
3. A bit repetitive.
4. The author inserts himself too much into what should be the focus of the book.

In summary, Jeff Goodell provides readers with some keen insights into the current impact of climate change around the world and what is expected to happen based on the best of our current knowledge. Through many interviews and sound research the author depicts a somber future unless we take action. The author may insert himself a bit too much for my taste but it’s worth reading. I recommend it!

Further recommendations: “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate” by Naomi Klein, “Changing Planet, Changing Health” by Paul R. Epstein, MD, and Dan Feber, “The Crash Course” by Chris Marteson, “Storms of My Grandchildren” by James Hansen, “The End of Growth” by Richard Heinberg, “Warnings” by Mike Smith, “The Weather of the New Future” by Heidi Cullen, “The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars” by Michael E. Mann, “Clean Break” by Osha Gray Davidson, “Fool Me Twice” by Lawrence Otto, “Lies, Damned Lies, and Science” by Sherry Seethaler, “The Hockey Stick and Climate Wars” by Michael E. Mann, “Reality Check” by Donald R. Prothero, and “Merchants od Doubt” by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.
Profile Image for Camelia Rose.
634 reviews84 followers
July 2, 2019
The Water Will Come is a heavy book to read. When I finally put it down, France is being hit by the worst heat wave in recorded history and Greenland ice sheet is facing yet another big year of melting.

The subtitle says "Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World", but the focus is the first half: rising seas and sinking cities. 70% of the book talks only about American cities and politics, which is a little disappointing.

Main cities and places covered in the book:
-- Miami
-- New York
-- New Jersey
-- Norfolk, VA and American military
-- Alaska
-- Venice and Rotterdam
-- Lagos, Nigeria
-- Marshall Island (where an important America military base is located)
Brief mentions: New Orleans, Bangladesh and London.

Sea level is likely to rise 2 feet by 2050. By 2100, 6 feet rise is the conservative figure.

Human psyche is the problem--why it is so hard for us to see far enough into the future? Why do we always choose short term satisfaction over long term benefit? The author explained brilliantly Miami's paradoxical economy--under the direct thread of sea rising, it is like playing Russian roulette, and the property frenzy is no difference to Dutch Tulip mania in 17th century.

President Obama is a great modern politician, which is to say, he is patient and knows to zigzag a giant ship over troubling water--above all, he trusts scientists.

Climate change caused drought in Northern Syria and drought catalyzed the Syrian war. Consequently, the refugee crisis tilt European politics to the right. Moreover, the number of climate refugees will only rise on every continent in the years to come.

The author has an entire chapter on American military--how it should deal with the challenges posed by climate change. It is a chilling chapter in many ways. In the worse case scenario, no human on earth can stay outside--nuclear war, refugees, famine and pandemics, climate catastrophe is a catastrophe for humankind. Perhaps, we, like dinosaurs, would extinct. Perhaps we shall leave and give other creatures on earth a chance.

It would be too much to ask for the author to propose a complex solution of remaking the civilized world. Modern civilization has invested too much in our coastal cities to abandon them like our ancestors did. The only hope is to stop co2 emission, which will buy us time to gradually move to higher ground or find a better, sustainable way to live with water. I agree with the author's argument on Geo-engineering (Chapter 12).
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books335 followers
November 16, 2021
if you like this review, i now have website: www.michaelkamakana.com

080120: every year in february i visit my mom’s hometown of waimea, kauai, where she and dad now have a condo. on the beach. so far we have had no tsunamis or hurricanes to wipe out the town, though the last two hurricanes did some damage. this is nothing compared to the future in this book, for the town is mostly less than two metres above sea level... even in the kindest projected rise it will be gone in hundred years or less...

i also recognize the desire for people who want to stay in low-lying areas, people who want to visit the water, because that is my desire. i have been going to the islands virtually every year of my life. family who have lived there for centuries. this is home. and according to this book and much accepted science, things are going to change irrevocably, so sea-level rise has very personal dimension to me. it is not like i am happy to have fears confirmed. i am angry but must accept my own role as well. i did not know about global climate change as a child... now i do, yet i still live comfortably north american life, still fly to the islands...

forgive me, future. the call of home is still too strong...
Profile Image for Mary.
811 reviews15 followers
May 14, 2018
Goodell's book The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World should convince those climate change nay sayers that we all need to be concerned about rising seas as the result of melting glaciers.

What makes Goodell's book interesting is the amount of time and travel that he has invested in investigating his facts. He has spoken to many experts in the fields of building, weather, geology, and climate. He has also visited with people living in the areas most likely to be floating or drowning if the predictions come to pass.

He offers a chapter on cities like Miami and Venice who have water ways incorporated into their current city structure. He also talks with people in New York where hurricane Sandy caused heavy flooding in low lying areas and much of the coast line would be in danger from sea level rise. He interviews architects and engineers and examines proposed solutions.

But what it comes down to is who will be saved. How much money will cities, counties, states, and the federal government spend to remedy the problems like raising streets, buildings, bridges, etc and how will they decided where to spend the money.

Profile Image for Marina.
2,007 reviews309 followers
April 18, 2021
** Books 40 - 2021 **

This books to accomplish Tsundoku Books Challenge 2021

4 of 5 stars!

Reading this books left me speechless impression. I choose this books since it is one of the great reference about Global warming and climate change issues that really makes me worry in such a day.

The author reported on how rising sea levels are impacting human society across Miami, Venesia Chicago, Antartics and also Lagos, Nigeria. So many issues in this books that we have to consider with. We're not really prepared how to deal climate change refugees. Also what will be the responsibility for country whose using fossil energy? how about Developed country 's action about climate change issues with?

Many ideas for surviving with rising sea levels such as building of walls like venesia or miami? and also the idea raising cities look like in lagos but i just get the idea people just want to deal the change not solving the root cause is.

Nowadays especially in my country, Indonesia My house already flooded once in this year and twice in last year. I know there is some lack of groundwater infiltration near my house since so many shopping malls and apartment build with. However the weather is unpredictable like an old days and there is such provinces like NTT who rarely raining now it turn out flooded in this months :'(

Can i have hope at least my grandchildren can live and survives?

Thankyou Bigbadwolf Jakarta 2021!
Profile Image for heidi.
924 reviews11 followers
February 4, 2021
« 4.5 stars »

This should be required reading for everyone. Especially those in urban design and policy making.

Before I read this book I was already concerned about climate change and rising sea levels yet I had no idea that the problem wasn't just that coastal cities would be submerged by seawater, or that millions of human beings (as well as countless animals and plants) would be displaced, but that rising sea levels alone would unleash a host of disastrous impacts on us all. In this book Jeff Goodell tackles only one aspect of climate change, that of melting glaciers and the resulting inundation of coastal areas, and even when limited to this part the threats are already numerous and scary.

Because think about everything that a city contains: sewage pipes, landfills, septic tanks, bottles and bottles of chemicals, cemeteries, manufacturing plants, military bases and their weapons, maybe a nuclear plant… and then think about everything that is dirty and polluting and unholy within our modern lifestyle mixing with all the seawater that's coming for us. *shudders*
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