Mapped rising sea levels caused by the impact of climate change

Cities and Ses Level Rise map

It’s one thing to read about the threat of rising sea levels to our coastal areas. It’s definitely another to see the graphic projections of what this means.

An article from today’s Texas Climate News reveals some sobering statistics reported by Climate Central, a news and research organization based in Princeton, New Jersey. Last month it published a scientific study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and related materials on its own website, listing coastal cities at risk of significant inundation because of sea-level rise that is being “locked in” by increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Climate Central scientist Ben Straus states:

  • “it appears that the amount of carbon pollution to date has already locked in more than 4 feet of sea level rise past today’s levels. That is enough, at high tide, to submerge more than half of today’s population in 316 coastal cities and towns (home to 3.6 million) in the lower 48 states.
  • By the end of this century, if global climate emissions continue to increase, that may lock in 23 feet of sea level rise, and threaten 1,429 municipalities that would be mostly submerged at high tide. Those cities have a total population of 18 million. But under a very low emissions scenario, our sea level rise commitment might be limited to about 7.5 feet, which would threaten 555 coastal municipalities: some 900 fewer communities than in the higher-emissions scenario.

Sea Level Rise Population Impact

Straus goes on to give specific examples of cities and population tolls that would be directly effected by sea level rises and the picture isn’t pretty. Although his team’s focus was on Texas, the map shows how the entire US coast and coastal states would be impacted. Cities including Sacramento, CA, Jacksonville and Miami, FL and Virginia Beach, VA would be under water. So would Boston, Long Beach, Calif., and New York City.

The article also includes some fascinating interactive maps of Texas projected sea level rise.

As Larry McKinney, a biologist and Executive Director for The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi so aptly said:

“If you want to stick your head in the sand about the implications of climate change along the upper Texas coast, you are likely to drown. Climate change and land subsidence have effectively doubled the relative sea-level rise along the upper coast and we have millions, even billions, of dollars in natural and manmade infrastructure at risk. If we do not effectively deal with it, we will pay the price – either over time or when the next hurricane hits. That is fact, not opinion.”

To learn more about what researchers are looking at and who’s doing what, see the entire article here.

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