Without concerted global effort to rein in global heating, up to 4.4 million acres of U.S. coastal land may slip under rising seas by 2050.
Louisiana will be hardest hit, with more than 25,000 individual properties encompassing nearly 2.5 million acres (some 8.7% of the state’s total land area) likely to “fall wholly below tidal boundary lines by 2050,” reports the Washington Post.
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Florida, North Carolina, and Texas are likewise staring down the barrel of enormous economic losses that will be compounded by a shrinking tax base.
Published by Climate Central, the research shows that “nearly 650,000 individual, privately-owned parcels, across as many as 4.4 million acres of land” in the U.S. are projected to be gobbled up by rising tide lines over the next 30 years. Looking to 2100, another 4.7 million acres could go under.
Providing what they cautioned was likely a very conservative estimate, the research team said some US$108 billion worth of property could be imperilled by rising seas by 2100.
“Diminished property values and a smaller tax base can lead to lower tax revenues and reduced public services,” Climate Central writes, “a potential downward spiral of disinvestment and population decline, reduced tax base and public services, and so on.”
The study’s authors add that coastal communities are already grappling with the costs of repairing infrastructure damaged by present flooding, as well as with the urgent need to replace outdated sewer and water systems in anticipation of worse to come.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s National Ocean Service recently reported that the coastal U.S. could be facing “roughly a foot” of sea level rise between now and 2050. NOAA oceanographer and sea level rise expert William Sweet told the Post that “the trajectory appears somewhat set.”
However, ensuring that policy-makers and the public have access to reliable data will increase the odds that they will make “the smart choices to best defend and prepare against rising seas.”
Above all, the U.S. and the rest of the globe need to act to slow global heating. “If we get our act together, we can get to a lower curve, and that buys us time,” study lead and Climate Central senior advisor Don Bain told the Post. “We don’t want [the water] rising so fast that it outpaces our capacity to adapt.”
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