As the earth warms, sea levels rise and super-storms become more frequent and intense, many of the world’s major coastal cities may soon be under water. In the last five years alone, the United States has been hit with 83 hurricanes, devastating cities from New York to Houston.
Now, WNET’s Peril and Promise initiative presents the new four-part documentary series Sinking Cities, premiering Wednesdays, October 31-November 21 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), which explores how four global cities are coming to grips with the real-time effects of rising seas and extreme weather.
Many of the world’s most vital and historic cities were built on the coast because of their accessibility to trade via rivers and oceans. But, as the planet has warmed, geography and development have left billions of people living in the shadow of an impending disaster. Through the stories of New York, Tokyo, London and Miami, Sinking Cities presents an urgent and eye-opening examination of what may be one of the biggest threats to human survival.
Featuring the world’s foremost climate scientists, urban planners and expert engineers, each film presents what is unique about these cities when natural disaster strikes and examines the scientific and engineering challenges presented for the future. We also hear from those affected by a changing and extreme climate — how have they dealt with it and what are they doing to protect themselves for the future? The series also takes us deep inside the visionary, yet complex, infrastructure and engineering work already underway in each city to mitigate these current issues.
Episode 1 – “New York”
Wednesday, October 31 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)
Discover how New York City – overwhelmed in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy – has learned from that disaster, and must defend itself against rising seas and the next big storm. With 520 miles of shoreline and no coastal protection, engineers and urban planners are tackling the problem with urgency and creative engineering. The premiere coincides with the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy on October 29.
Episode 2 – “Tokyo”
Wednesday, November 7 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)
See how Tokyo is looking for new ways to fight back against rising waters. Typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes and sinking neighborhoods threaten one of the world’s most populous cities, and the economic engine of Japan, with some of the world’s largest problems.
Episode 3 – “London”
Wednesday, November 14 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)
See firsthand why London’s Thames Barrier is no longer enough to keep the city safe from rising tides. The system has worked for decades, but due to increased environmental challenges, its location on a flood plain and heavy urbanization, London must now explore both low-tech fixes and some of the most advanced engineering solutions in the world.
Episode 4 – “Miami”
Wednesday, November 21 at 10 p.m. on PBS (check local listings)
Miami is beloved for its beaches and waterfront homes and businesses. See how engineers and planners are trying to protect Miami from rising seas and ever-more-frequent and violent storm surges that could destroy the city’s tourist and business economy.
Sinking Cities is presented as part of Peril and Promise: The Challenge of Climate Change, WNET’s national, multi-platform public media initiative reporting on the human impact of climate change, scientific solutions and innovation in resilience, mitigation and clean energy. Distributing stories since 2017, Peril and Promise has produced over 100 reports on-air and online. Content partners include PBS NewsHour, PBSNewsHour Weekend, MetroFocus, NJTV News, SciTech Now, Long Island Business Report and New York public radio station WNYC.
Sinking Cities is produced by Cineflix (Cities) Inc. in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET. Alex Bystram, Kim Bondi, Peter Emerson and Sherri Rufh are executive producers. Martin Pupp is series producer and director. For WNET: Stephen Segaller is executive in charge and Ed Hersh is senior programming consultant. For Peril and Promise: Geraldine Moriba and Eugenia Harvey are project directors and executive producers.
Major funding for Sinking Cities is provided by Dr. P. Roy and Diana T. Vagelos. Additional funding is provided by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, The Marc Haas Foundation, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and public television viewers.