Jakarta’s urban area has more than 30 million inhabitants (it’s the 2nd largest globally after Tokyo) and is one of the fastest-growing cities in the World. It’s also one of the fastest-sinking ones, and the government is planning to move the capital. Let that piece of news sink in for a moment.
40% of the city is now under the sea level mainly because illegal wells are sucking underground water reserves, causing the city to sink. North Jakarta has already sunk by 2.5 meters in 10 years. And rising sea levels are compounding the problem, with global average seas 20 cm higher compared to pre-industrial levels. As the trend is accelerating, we might see up to 8 feet (2.5 metres) of higher average sea levels by 2100, says NOAA, the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration.
The myth of Atlantis will soon be replaced by real-world examples, as Jakarta may be underwater as early as 2050. Other cities facing similar risks include Venice, Miami, Houston, Amsterdam, London, Antwerp, Hamburg, Copenhagen. The business of the future? Swimming courses, trust me.
What causes sea levels to rise?
Sea levels rise due to global warming, which is caused by humans. Oceans absorb 90% of the heat trapped by human emissions, which expands water molecule volume and causes ice to melt. Greenland, in the Arctic, is warming twice as fast as the rest of the World, causing enormous amounts of ice melt and thus absorbing even more heat with dark water. Learn more about why every degree of global warming matters here – every inch of warming matters.
Extreme floods recently hit the capital
Jakarta celebrated this New Year with one of the worst floods in decades, which caused its rivers to overflow and flood some areas by as much as 8 metres, causing at least 67 deaths and 400.000 people to abandon their homes. Watch this 1 minute video on the recent rains in Jakarta:
The Indonesian government is moving the capital
Living in Jakarta will soon become impossible, and the government in 2019 unveiled plans to move the Indonesian capital. The yet-unnamed city will be developed in East Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo, in what is today a conservation area with lots of jungle and orangutans. People will start moving from Jakarta in 2024, even though Jakarta will officially remain the economic centre of the nation.
Talk of moving capital has been going on for decades, with other problems affecting the city such as air pollution and traffic congestion.
Popular misconception portrays rising sea levels as the only human threat of climate change, while it is only part of the problem. Other direct human risks include extreme heat and drought, forest fires, pluvial floods and river floods. The 2003 European heatwave killed almost 70.000 people, mostly in France. If you’re European, consider checking the risks of your city with the European Environmental Agency’s Urban Adaptation Map Viewer.
Indonesia picks site for new capital –https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/welcome-to-the-jungle-indonesia-picks-site-for-new-capital-city/2019/08/26/809cb0a2-c7b4-11e9-9615-8f1a32962e04_story.html
Flooding in Jakarta is the worst for over a decade – https://www.economist.com/asia/2020/01/09/flooding-in-jakarta-is-the-worst-for-over-a-decade
Sea level rise is accelerating, NASA – https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2018/new-study-finds-sea-level-rise-accelerating
Infographic By NASA on sea level rise –
Seas are 20cm higher today –
Sea levels might increase by 8 feet by 2100 https://www.noaa.gov/explainers/tracking-sea-level-rise-and-fall