Gotham was always thereIt is a grim metropolis that is rife with corruption and murder. But there is hope. The Batman — Matt Reeves’ even darker take on the superhero saga — Gotham also becomes overrun by another element perhaps even more dangerous than mob bosses: the Climate crisis
In the film’s third act, The Riddler detonates a series of bombs that destroy the seawalls surrounding the city’s perimeter — the only barrier between rising sea levels and the bustling metropolis. Gotham’s lower-lying areas quickly flood with a swell of water, leaving Batman trapped with the new Mayor-elect in the city’s shelter of last resort: Gotham Square Garden (a surrogate for New York’s real Madison Square Garden).
Since this version of Gotham clearly serves as a stand-in for New York, the movie’s ending carries a surprisingly dark message for the future of Manhattan and the other boroughs as global warming brings rising sea levels and an increased risk of flooding due to hurricanes.
According to Alison Branco, New York Coastal Director, Acting Director of Climate Adaptation at the non-profit The Nature ConservancyThe movie exposes a shocking truth about how New Yorkers are already affected by the climate crisis.
“Climate change is really on the minds of people in New York,” Branco tells Inverse.
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It is The Batman’s ending realistic?
As we can see from a map The BatmanSeawalls surround Gotham’s main downtown, which appears to be the fictional equivalent of Manhattan. In real life, there is no seawall around Manhattan — yet.
“But things similar to that [seawall] have been proposed for the future to help protect Lower Manhattan from sea level rise,” Branco says.
After Hurricane Sandy devastated New York City in 2012, city planners started to brainstorm ways to make the city more resilient to hurricanes and rising seas.
In 2020, the city broke ground on its new headquarters. 2.5 mile-long The series of floodgates, walls and other structures that surround lower Manhattan is known as “The Floodgates” East Side Coastal Resiliency Project. and the Army Corps of Engineers are considering a $119-billion six-mile-long seawall running from Rockaway in Queens to a strip of ground south of Staten Island.
Another seawall idea was proposed back in 2016 known as the “Big U.” The original design proposed using “protective landscapes” all around the entirety of lower Manhattan, but more recent updates suggest the project is pivoting more to SeawallsSimilar to those in The Batman.
“I’m guessing that that’s where they got the idea for this wall that they have in the movie,” Branco says.
As to whether it’s possible to blow up a seawall, that’s harder to determine, but seawalls are built to withstand extremely powerful waves.
“I don’t really know too much about explosives and big metal walls, but it wouldn’t be easy,” Branco says.
Rather than an explosive destroying a seawall, it’s more likely that poorly-funded and ill-maintained infrastructure would cause the seawall to crumble.
The BatmanClimate crisis and its aftermath
Rain is a constant threat The Batman — nearly every other scene features Batman fighting bad guys as a deluge of rain batters Gotham in the background. It turns out that New York’s climate crisis will lead to an increase in intense rainfall and storm surge flooding. Wetter storms.
“We’re not expecting a lot more rain in terms of annual volume, but what we are expecting is for the rain to come in much more, kind of big, dramatic storms,” Branco says.
New Yorkers witnessed this torrential rainstorm last summer, when the remnants of the drought had not yet subsided. Hurricane IdaThe Northeast was swept by a powerful rainstorm, which quickly flooded the area, killing many. Minimum 13People in the city.
But there is another climate crisis threat. The BatmanRising sea levels. Branco claims that the future sea-level rise is in The Batman is probably “decades” off, it is a very real threat. Recent research has shown that coastal areas will be affected by a one-foot riseIn sea levels by 2050s. Roughly thirty-seven percentManhattan will be under water by 2050. That number could rise up to 50 percent by the end the century, as the city faces flooding. six-feet riseIn sea levels
This is not including the other boroughs. In parts of Brooklyn and Queens, there are “whole neighborhoods that are already experiencing chronic flooding,” says Branco.
The city will need to set up programs to help those people “relocate to safer ground,” she adds.
Can New York withstand flooding and sea level rise?
Seawalls may be a good idea, it turns out. Not actually be the best way to protect Gotham — or New York — from flooding.
“It seems like a great idea until the day that the wall either gets a hole in it or gets blown up by the Riddler,” Branco says.
Seawalls are controversial because they don’t just block rising seawater from the outsideBut they could also trap water during intense rainfallInsideWithout proper drainage systems, the water could cause flooding in the city and pose a danger to residents.
“A problem with a seawall in a big storm that has not just rising water levels coming from the ocean, but also a lot of rain coming from the interior is it will trap all that rain inside,” Branco says.
Seawalls may be good in the short-term rise in sea levels during a hurricane, but they’re not great for tackling the long-term rise in sea levels due to a changing climate, since that also leads to an increase in groundwater inside the city.
Other solutions based on nature have been suggested to protect New York against storm surges. Oyster walls — also known as living shorelines — and these methods can help reduce erosion flooding.
“But there is nothing that is going to stop the water from rising and that’s what everybody needs to remember,” she says.
If the water rises over the sea wall, there’s nothing that can stop the city from flooding. Ultimately, we need to take actions to curb the climate crisis — such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions — if we really want to stop sea levels from rising and protect coastal cities like New York.
“There is nothing we can build that will stop flooding caused by sea-level rise,” Branco adds.
The Batman You can stream it now on HBO Max