If current greenhouse gas emission (GHG) trends continue, scientists warn that sea level rise will flood more than 300,000 coastal homes over the next three decades, totaling $136 billion in damages.
Based on federal data compiled by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a new report projects what coastal communities will look like in the next 30 years, and again at the end of the century. With emissions barely constrained as they currently are, the UCS estimates 311,000 homes will be chronically flooded by a 0.6-meter (2-foot) sea level rise by 2045. This trend expedites at the end of the century, with as many as 2.4 million homes (worth about $1 trillion) at risk. Low-lying states in particular are at risk, with as many as 1 million homes in Florida, 250,000 in New Jersey, and 143,000 homes in New York at risk of inundation by a 2-meter (6.5-foot) rise in sea level by 2100.
“The impact could well be staggering,” Kristina Dahl, a senior climate scientist at UCS, told The Guardian. “This level of flooding would be a tipping point where people in these communities would think it’s unsustainable.
“Even homes along the Gulf coast that are elevated would be affected, as they’d have to drive through salt water to get to work or face their kids’ school being cut off. You can imagine people walking away from mortgages, away from their homes.”
Financial and emotional tolls aside, experts say chronic flooding will upset the housing market, raise flood insurance premiums, and place a burden on people who have to decide whether to stay and repair their homes or move to higher, less-prone areas.
The report looks strictly at sea level rise in the face of climate change and does not factor in flooding that occurs from major storms. Even the most conservative analysis shows a sea level rise of 0.3 meters (1 foot) affecting 140,000 homes by 2045, and a 1.2-meter (4-foot) rise affecting 1.2 million by 2100. On the brighter side, the map also suggests the potential power we have to mitigate GHG. If actions are taken today, as many as 2 million homes valued at $782 billion could be spared.
Whether there’s cause to be optimistic or not remains to be seen. Each year, 200 billion tonnes of ice from Antarctica is being dumped into the ocean, contributing to a half-a-millimeter annual rise. As sea level continues to rise more and more, people will flock to landlocked areas; previous research suggests as many as 13 million Americans will need to move by the end of the century.
[H/T: The Guardian]