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The world in 2062

As the ‘2062, Back and Forth to the Future’ event opens at La Gaîté Lyrique - showcasing artists’ ideas of what Paris, France and the world will look like in 50 years - we asked experts in key Time Out cities around the world what the future holds for them...

Howard Halle, editor-at-large of Time Out New York, gives us his vision of a submerged but surviving Big Apple... The future of New York City has always depended on the fortunes of its economy, making it hard to predict what will happen. No one in 1962, for example, could have foreseen that by the end of that decade, the city would slide into a 30-year decline, and New Yorkers in 1982 could have scarcely imagined the gentrified metropolis of today. (Brooklyn, the coolest place in the world? Really?) But projecting out 50 years from now is further complicated by another factor beyond anyone's control: Global warming and rising sea levels. Many climate scientists see global sea levels rising seven feet by 2100, but even a one-foot rise would inundate much of lower Manhattan and large swaths of the remaining boroughs. Conceivably, a massive program of building dikes and sea-walls could alleviate the situation somewhat, but then New York would become like New Orleans—a city in a bowl below sea level. The more cost-effective solution is to accept the rising sea-levels and start building on piers over the water. Certain submerged buildings might supply the support for platforms on which new infrastructure could be built, and semi-submerged buildings—high-rises, skyscrapers—could be connected by sky bridges. There could even be submarine structures, created by inflating giant polymer envelopes inside the shells of buildings underwater. Most of the subways would be rendered useless. The parts on higher ground could be salvaged, perhaps, but ferries would likely become a major part of the transportation system. They might even be pilotless, like drones. As for the economy overall, and even the culture, it would be much more green. Given the evidence of the inundation, no one would dispute that fossil fuels are a problem, and so people might finally get serious about solar and wind power with huge collectors for both on rooftops. Along with farms: The difficulties of trucking food into the city might make high-rise micro-farming a big part of the economy. But don't bet too much on fishing, at least close to shore: toxic seepage from drowned structures—think of the millions of tons of plaster, sheetrock, glues for particle board and other chemicals used in construction, dissolving in all that water—would definitely pose a huge problem. Perhaps that could be mitigated by new nano materials that would transform sidewalks and even buildings into water-filtration systems. One thing that will remain the same, though, is that the rents will still be too damn high.