As waters rise, worlds runways face crisis

Extreme weather and rising sea levels pose one of the most urgent threats to many of the worlds busiest airports, which often werent designed with global warming in mind.

As a powerful typhoon tore through Japan last week, travelers at Kansai International Airport looked out on a terrifying void: Where they should have seen the runway, they saw only the sea.

They also saw what could be a perilous future for low-lying airports around the world, increasingly vulnerable to the rising sea levels and more extreme storms brought about by climate change. A quarter of the worlds 100 busiest airports are less than 10 meters, or about 32 feet, above sea level, according to an analysis of data from Airports Council International and OpenFlights.

Twelve of those airports including hubs in Shanghai, Rome, San Francisco and New York are less than 5 meters, or about 16 feet, above sea level.

We were trapped, said Takayuki Kobata, a web entrepreneur who had hoped to board a Honolulu-bound plane from Kansai, a vast airport on an artificial island near Osaka. We just had to wait for the storm to blow over.

He spent nearly 36 hours trying to find a way off the flooded island, a task further complicated by a ship that ripped from its moorings and crashed into the bridge from the airport to Osaka, severely damaging the roadway.

The threat from rising waters comes as a reckoning for an industry that ranks among the major contributors to climate change. Air travel accounts for about 3 percent of greenh....

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