With the predicted rising of sea levels caused by global warming, numerous tech companies risk seeing their headquarter inundated by water later in this century assuming they are still relevant. It’s difficult to picture a world without Google and Facebook in my lifetime but I did spend well over half my life without them.
Surely Facebook and Google have the money to relocate
That’s hardly the point. If sea levels rise by the amount they are expected to in this century the headquarters of wildly successful companies will be the least of you worries especially if you live on a coast nearly anywhere in the world.
But back to Silicon Valley, a team of scientists have recently had a look at the Silicon Valley headquarters of Facebook, Google and Cisco and see each either being completely cut off by water or simply flooded. Especially at risk is Facebook’s newest campus designed by architect Frank Gehry.
The 430,000 square foot complex that was built as the company grew is home to 2,800 workers and built near the San Francisco Bay shoreline.
“Facebook is very vulnerable,” said Lindy Lowe, a senior planner at California’s Bay Conservation and Development Commission. “They built on a very low site – I don’t know why they chose to build there. Facebook thinks they can pay enough to protect themselves.”
“The temporary flooding within the campus can probably be addressed, but the temporary flooding onto the roadway can’t be addressed by them. I think they realize that is the weakest link for them. We’ll see how dedicated they are to that facility,”
The lower end of sea level predictions of 1.6 feet in 2100 would be more than enough to flood the complex entirely. However, well before that, the roads to the adjunct building will experience regular flooding and this will need to be addressed to make the building accessible in the future.
Facebook hasn’t comment on the quotes used in this piece about the future of its campus building.
Google and Cisco mum on their situations
Google and Cisco are located in Mountain View and San Jose respectively and face less imminent danger from rising sea levels threatening their campuses. That said, all bets are off the table if the Antarctic ice sheet disintegrates as recently projected in a recent forecast that was reported on by the UK’s Guardian among other.
In that event, a six foot projected rise would do in both complexes along with coastal cities worldwide.
“Even with a small increase, the sea comes into the 101 highway by the Googleplex – whole areas could be screwed up,” said professor Kristina Hill of UC Berkeley. “Google and Facebook will have to redo their campuses. I don’t think there’s been much success in getting Google to support adaption, it’s not really on their radar.”
Forget the tech giants for a bit, we’re talking about $100 billion in existing construction in jeopardy and another $20 odd billion in planned development around San Francisco that will simple disappear according to Lowe.
“There are projects that are problematic that are being approved,” Lowe said. “We have a lot of infrastructure pushed right up against the shoreline. There are parts of the shoreline in trouble at a 2-3ft (increase). When you get to 4-5ft, things start to go, significantly. Like, everything. It’s a tipping point.”
Back to Hill
While predicted sea level rises will wipe Miami off the map, it’s Miami and, well, it’s just Miami.
Yet, San Francisco can be saved if action and intelligence are called into service.
“People’s lives and property are at stake and we’ve been doing some fairly insane things in developing these areas,” Hill said.
Areas near the water simply won’t be there at the end of the century but that is certainly not going to stop developers nor land owners from pretending the problem doesn’t exist.
“The developers’ interest is to sell the properties, ideally before they open,” she said. “Everyone is invested in a quick turnaround, including the developers and the government. The people who are on the hook are those who will buy or rent these places for the next 25 years.”
“There are some areas that just won’t be defendable; it will be hard to adapt because the water will come from everywhere,” Lowe said. “The longer we wait to come up with an approach, the more likely we’ll be in retreat mode. Retreat is usually not intentional.”
Don’t expect to see people taking this issue as seriously as it is but don’t expect to see either a professional baseball or basketball game in the proposed new homes of the San Francisco Giants or Golden State Warriors in 70 years time either.