Venice Underwater: Climate Change Threatens the ‘City of Water’
① The Dire Situation of the ‘City of Water’
Venice, the Italian city on the water, suffers from climate change and over-tourism. The “City of Water” Venice has about 120 islands and 177 canals. It has been facing severe problems due to abnormal climate patterns since a few years ago.
Last summer, Italy suffered from an extreme heat wave, and Venice saw its temperature rise to 100.4°F.
Cultural heritage sites were exposed to the heatwave, putting them at risk of secondary dangers like fires.
In February last year, a severe drought prevented the gondolas from navigating the canals.
In particular, Venice is known for its frequent flooding. Due to global warming, the water level is rising, and the city is submerged.
In 2019, Venice was completely flooded due to the worst flood in 53 years. The sea level rose to its highest at that time due to heavy rainfall and high tides. Most of the city was flooded, making daily life impossible.
The floodwaters pushed water taxis moored in the canals into the alleys. The Basilica of San Marco, a landmark of Venice boasting 1,200 years of history, was also filled with seawater. The sight of it seemingly floating on the water was heartbreaking. The Basilica of San Marco was flooded four times in 20 years.
The open-air cafes, a signature of the ‘City of Water’ Venice, have also lost their original appearance. Most shops had no choice but to close due to flood damage. As the seawater rushed in, there were also casualties caused by electrical short circuits.
② Problems caused by over-tourism
Venice is a city built by driving wooden piles into the muddy bottom of a lagoon and through reclamation projects. The city’s foundation, made of mud, is sinking by 0.04-0.08 inches every year. The water level in the lagoon around Venice is rising by 0.08 inches every year. On top of that, the rise in sea level due to global warming is also being added. The average water level around Venice has risen by 5.5 inches since 1900.
The situation is accelerating due to the many tourists flocking from all over the world. Every year, 32 million tourists visit Venice, the “City of Water.”
In particular, Venice is a popular stop for large cruise companies, where cruises with 3,000-4,000 passengers dock. A single cruise ship emits as much exhaust gas as 12,000 cars while docked at the port. Every time a cruise ship passes through the port, it creates a huge wave, sinking its infrastructure.
③ ‘Aqua Alta’ common in Venice
It’s common for the streets of Venice to be flooded. Each year, from September to April of the following year, the city experiences flooding due to the rising tide, known as “Aqua Alta.” However, the problem is that Aqua Alta is also appearing in midsummer.
The water quality in the Venice canals is very poor as they also function as sewers. Not only does it smell bad, but it’s also filthy.
When Venice is flooded, tourists often take off their shoes and enjoy the flooded streets. You can even see people swimming in the flooded squares. Such behavior is no different from swimming in a sewer. Locals never enter the water when their streets are flooded.
Videos capturing the reality of Venice are spreading through social media. In the videos, the streets and shops of Venice are filled with water. People eat in flooded restaurants, and people sitting in open-air cafes have their legs wrapped in plastic to keep their shoes and clothes from drying out. The people’s expressions were relaxed, without any signs of panic. They were even laughing while eating and drinking coffee.
Many tourists expressed concern about problems such as food poisoning and diarrhea. You can also see the flooded restaurant, turning the place into a mess. The staff ran out to stop the incoming water, but it was futile.
Aqua Alta is not just about flooding. It happens frequently in Venice, but it can lead to significant problems.