Residents in the Italian city of Venice, a Unesco world heritage site, are used to the canals inching higher every year around this time.
But this year has brought the worst flooding to Venice in half a century, and the second-worst since record-keeping began.
Venice sits on a tidal lagoon, just above sea level, so the city’s squares and streets often get wet at high tide. The city is made up of more than 100 islands inside a lagoon off the north-east coast of Italy.
This week, though, the water peaked more than 6ft above the usual level and at least one death has been blamed on the flooding already.
About 85% of Venice has been flooded by this year’s “acqua alta,” or “high water”, CBS News reported.
Venice has been affected by extraordinarily high tides and finds itself now in a state of calamity and alert.
According to BBC meteorologist Nikki Berry the recent flooding in Venice was caused by a combination of high spring tides and a meteorological storm surge driven by strong sirocco winds blowing north-eastwards across the Adriatic Sea. When these two events coincide, we see what is known as Acqua Alta (high water).
The government declared a state of emergency in the city, one of the world’s top touristic destinations, which has about 50,000 residents, but about 20mn tourists visit every year.
Hotels were forced to cancel reservations, some reportedly as far ahead as December, as news on submerged Venice spread around the world.
The tides have been worsened by sirocco winds blowing from Africa, and there are fears that global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of such floods.
It has been a perfect storm of high winds, a flood, and a city that sits only 4 or 5ft above sea level. But experts and some government officials say what’s making things worse in Venice is climate change and rising sea levels.
“This is the result of climate change,” Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said.
It has been a little under four years since 196 countries negotiated the Paris Agreement, under which they committed to taking steps to limit the increase in global average temperature this century to well below 2C over pre-industrial levels, and ultimately to limit that increase to 1.5C.
Despite the 2015 agreement, global carbon emissions increased 1.7% in 2017 and a further 2.7% in 2018; it has been estimated that the rate of increase in 2019 will be among the highest on record.
The last four years have been the hottest on record, with 2019 on track to make it five.
But analyses suggest that fast action now can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and hold global increases below 2C and perhaps 1.5.
While debate rages on whether climate change is entirely to blame for Venice flooding, the fact remains that multilateral environmental agreements are one of the most effective ways in which various governments meet environmental commitments to mitigating and adapting to climate change.
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