This is part of a series of stories about Las Vegas and climate change. Find the whole collection here.
Next time you fly into Las Vegas at night, take a close look at the casino-studded carnival in the center of the city. You'll notice something odd. Amid all the glitter, there are a couple of black spots, like patches of dark matter in a star cluster. These are the dead zones, reminders of the 2007 economic collapse that brought this city to its knees.
The largest one is the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a gleaming, blue-black skyscraper that stands at the north end of the Strip. The $3 billion project was to be the tallest building between Dallas and L.A., a 68-story, 3,889-room hotel-casino that would out-glitz all the rest. It was two-thirds complete when the economy crashed, and time seemed to grind to a halt.
In 2010, billionaire Carl Icahn bought the bankrupt project at a fire sale for $150 million. Since then, it has become an eyesore and a destination for urban explorers. Icahn has been mum about his plans for the development, but the recent disappearance of the construction crane on its roof gives credence to rumors that he plans to dismantle the structure and sell it for scrap, possibly to the Chinese, who seem to still be building skyscrapers.
What a fucking world we live in.
And that’s the thing about Las Vegas. I was in town last month searching for chinks in this city’s armor -- signs that it is vulnerable to climate-driven catastrophe. What I found instead was that the obvious weak spots -- the dearth of water, for example -- are pretty much under control, at least in the near term. The real and present threats to this city are economic ones. If I were a betting man, I’d say Vegas is going to run out of money long before it runs out of water -- and climate change could have a hand in that.