The steady rise in global surface temperatures is largely attributed to human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. With rising temperatures, the world’s ice has been melting and sea levels have been rising. As a result, barring major interventions, sooner or later thousands of coastal communities around the world will become uninhabitable.
With the ice in Greenland and Antarctica melting at record rates, scientists currently estimate sea levels could rise 2-7 feet by the end of the century, with some estimates even higher. Antarctica has about 90% of all ice in the world, enough to raise global sea levels by 200 feet, in theory. This kind of catastrophic sea level rise is just one of many potential disaster scenarios caused by climate change.
Change on such a large scale is incremental and can seem quite distant, but any solution to the problem would need to be implemented relatively soon. Already, for many areas in the United States, recurring flooding is inevitable and the problem is imminent.
24/7 Wall St. reviewed data modeled by environmental watchdog group the Union of Concerned Scientists. The UCS in June 2018 released a report identifying U.S. coastal communities expected to face chronic and disruptive flooding before the end of the century.
We reviewed the coastal communities in which at least 10% of habitable land is expected to experience chronic flooding by 2060. Places are ranked by the number of residents that live in parts of the community expected to be regularly flooded by 2060. In many of these communities, more than one-third of the current population lives in areas expected to be regularly flooded by 2060.
Other factors, such as the possibility that global climate change could increase the prevalence and intensity of severe weather events such as hurricanes, could make actual outcomes in these cities even more dire. There are already places in the United States where weather appears to be getting worse because of climate change.
Across U.S. coastal cities, more than 300,000 homes worth a combined $117.5 billion are likely to be at risk of chronic tidal flooding within 30 years, according to UCS analysis and projections. By the end of the century, that total could rise to 2.4 million homes and more than $1 trillion in property damage — and those estimates are based only on existing homes. The regular inundation these cities face in the near future could make the worst floods in American history seem tame by comparison.