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Francis Wilkinson

The Jersey Shore Is Sinking. Do We Want to Save It?

U.S. taxpayers may balk at the price tag for protecting the coastal homes of wealthy landowners.

A view of things to come.

A view of things to come.

Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images North America

In Ocean City, New Jersey, a barrier-island resort featuring a famous boardwalk, expensive homes and an infinite supply of salt-water taffy, what the secretary-general of the United Nations called “code red for humanity” manifests today mostly as puddles.

The secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, meant to convey the direness of the data in the UN’s comprehensive report on climate change, which was issued in early August. Like previous UN climate reports, reflecting the consensus of the world’s scientists, it’s a dense product of instrumentation, calculation and heightened alarm. But if this 3,949-page analysis hit the world with more force than previous scientific pleas for decarbonization, it’s only partly due to the report’s “code red” conclusions, which are not a marked departure from previous warnings.