Every structure you see in this picture is, I believe, on a single property. There are similar scale facilities all along the Texas Gulf Coast. What will happen to them if and (most likely) when they are permanently submerged? The economic consequences are clear enough. What about the environmental consequences? Will all these vast factories be evacuated in an orderly fashion?
The trains in the foreground explain the photo opportunity: the picture is taken from the highway overpass over the tracks. There is a vast surrounding territory which is absolutely flat.
Somewhat higher resolution picture here. If you are interested in the full 8 megapixel pic let me or Irene know; we don’t have an appropriate server for it just now. There is an amazing amount of detail in the original shot.
photo: Irene Tobis (who rocks!)
update: Commenters seem to think it’s important that these facilities are protected by levees. First of all, these levees become one meter shorter for each meter of sea level rise.
More to the point, though, one lesson of New Orleans is that protecting land below sea level indefinitely in an area subject to tropical storms is extremely difficult and expensive. I am not opposed to heavy industry: the current world population cannot survive without modern technology. I do think the industries in question should be paying attention to their own vulnerabilities to climate-driven sea level change, which seems very substantial.
Coping with the occasional flood is not the same thing as coping with sea level rise.
People with an interest in low-lying property have a tricky situation to negotiate. The best way to protect their property values in the short term is to deny the problem, and in the long term, to address it vigorously.
It’s messy alright. In a way it’s like the dilemma attached to any other real estate property with a defect, but it applies to a whole region. Unfortunately this inclines the people who are most motivated to deal with the potential problem to deny that it’s serious.
update: Thanks, on the other hand, to the sharp-eyed commenters who pointed out that this is primarily a Dow facility, not BASF. I saw a sign on a gate saying BASF but apparently that is for a subfacility. There is a BASF location in Freeport TX on the property. Anyway, the text is updated with the correction.
Here’s a map showing the facility for those interested.
update: This article is getting some attention from people outside my usual readership. Since I love attention, I’ll ask y’all to stay tuned for an upcoming article in the week of August 6 on the science of sea level rise. update**2: Here is that article on sea level rise.
update: The New York Times has a relevant article about the difficulty in replacing large infrastructure here. From that article:
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sometimes points out that digging for what are now called the PATH tubes, which connect Manhattan and Newark, N.J., began in 1874, two years before General Custer died at Little Big Horn.
Generally, the bigger an object, the longer it survives, because it has economic value, and has usually become intricately connected to things around it.
Replacing the Brooklyn Bridge, in service since 1883, would mean years of disruption, and the possible replacement of all roads that lead to it. The PATH tubes are still in place because they are still needed and because a new Hudson River crossing would cost billions. Replacing old nuclear plants would be similarly astronomical, even if the legal and environmental barriers could be overcome.
“You cannot just replace the old stock with new stock, without changing a lot of stuff around it,” said Viren Doshi, a London-based consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, who has studied the telephone and electricity industries. “So they keep on patching up the old stuff.”
update: Yet more thoughts about chemical plants near sea level.