Meet the world’s first ‘floating city’ to face rising sea levels which begins construction in 2023

Busan in South Korea will host a prototype of the idea, intended to help coastal cities adapt to the climate crisis

Ethan Freedman
Climate Reporter, New York
Tuesday 26 April 2022 22:59 BST

Designs unveiled for world’s first ‘floating city’

Designs for the world’s first “floating city” were unveiled on Tuesday as a possible solution for coastal communities under threat from rising sea levels linked to the climate crisis.

The urban design project is intended to be built in the port of Busan, South Korea, a city of 3.4 million people.

Renderings show buildings clustered on floating platforms, connected to each other and the mainland through pedestrian bridges. The idea is that as sea level fluctuates, so will these platforms.

The three main platforms will be designated for “lodging,” “research,” and “living”, according to a press release.

The project is a partnership between the city of Busan, the United Nations Human Settlement Programme, and Oceanix, a technology and design firm. The partnership was formed late last year.

The project claims that the floating city will host “a community of 12,000 residents and visitors,” with the possibility to expand and bring that number closer to 100,000.

The project says that the cluster of floating buildings will be fully energy independent through a series of solar panels, in addition to the ability to "treat and replenish its own water”.

A public square mock-up for the world’s first ‘floating city’ in Busan, South Korea

Mock-ups of neighbourhoods on the platforms show accommodating open spaces with public seating, greenery and art. The project claims that the cluster of islands will offer greenhouses and “innovative urban agriculture”.

A representative from Oceanix told The Independent that the project plans to start construction in 2023.

Sea level rise is one of the major challenges of the climate crisis, as rising tides and expanding floodplains threaten to upend life in coastal cities around the world.

Already, sea level has risen by around 21-24 centimetres (8-9 inches) since 1880, according to the US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

But that’s just a drop in the bucket to what might be coming. According to the most recent report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), even under some lower emissions scenarios, sea level is likely to rise by around half a metre (20 inches) by the end of the century.

Aerial rendering of the ‘floating city’

Under higher-emission scenarios, coupled with the somewhat unlikely event of Antarctic ice-sheet collapse, the world could see over 1.5m (5ft) of sea level rise by 2100.

Further into the future, the problem becomes even more profound. Under the highest future emissions scenarios in the IPCC report, sea level would be expected to rise by about two metres (6.5 feet) by the year 2300, at a minimum, with the possibility of rising almost seven metres (23 feet) — or more.

And that’s just sea level rise — in addition to areas that will become permanently inundated, more areas will face flooding risks from storms as the oceans creep inland. In 2016, Busan itself faced down the Category 5 Super Tyhpoon Chaba.

Nighttime view of the project in the Busan port

The global coastline is changing, and will impact the lives of people who live along it.

According to the UN, over 600 million people — around one in every ten people on Earth — live less than 10 metres above sea level.

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