Rising sea levels will swallow Miami, New Orleans, and 20 other American cities, engulfing more than 31 million Americans, claims a new study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to the Washington Post, the shape of the United States will undergo a major overhaul because of the alarming rise in sea levels, even if carbon dioxide emissions were to be cut significantly in the near future. The striking result is that millions of Americans who now live on land could face the daunting prospect of evacuating their homes or face being submerged under rising water 33 feet high. Even more worryingly, the numbers are expected to increase dramatically if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked — or if recent concerns about the destabilization of the ice sheet of West Antarctica turn out to be true.
The study assesses the future of the coastal cities of the United States under various scenarios, looking at “lock-in dates beyond which the cumulative effects of carbon emissions likely commit them to long-term seal-level rise that could submerge land under more than half of the city’s population,” according to Time. Cities like Norfolk, Virginia, could be submerged under 14 feet of water as soon as 2045 if carbon emissions go unchecked, while New York City could find itself locked-in by 2085. One-fourth of Boston will be covered in water by 2045.
But the news of rising sea levels inundating American cities will perhaps be worst met by the people living in low-lying cities like Miami and New Orleans, which have no hope of being saved.
“It’s hard to imagine how we could defend Miami in the long run,” one the lead authors of the study, Benjamin Strauss, told AFP.
The fact that Miami has a porous limestone bedrock adds to its problems, meaning even if walls were to be built around it, the southeastern city in Florida will be submerged deep in water.
“New Orleans is a really sad story,” he added. “It is a lot worse looking than Miami.”
According to the report, Florida is the state with the largest number of cities facing annihilation by climate change, with more than 40 percent of the population that lives on threatened land in cities throughout the state.
Wired reports that the research began by linking a historical data set showing how temperature affects peak sea level rise with another data set showing the relationship between carbon emissions and temperature. Millions of computer experiments later, Strauss’ team had deduced useful ratios between carbon emissions to sea level rise. There were many surprising conclusions to be drawn from the study, Strauss claimed.
“One of the most astonishing things to me was finding that burning one gallon of gasoline translates to adding 400 gallons of water volume to the ocean in the long run.”
It all makes for a grim future, especially if the December Paris climate talks lead to no significant global emissions cuts. Future American children will be left to deal with flooded cities and a bygone era.
“Those generations could know lower Manhattan as a place to visit, or as a place to go diving for ruins,” concluded Strauss.
Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate researcher, echoed Strauss’ views, pointing out that if carbon emissions go unchecked, America can look forward to a bleak future, as can the world.
“The potential magnitude of sea-level rise is staggering. In the short term, it risks serious disruption of life along the coast while in the long term, it could lead to obliteration of a large and priceless amount of our cultural heritage, worldwide.”
It is certainly time that we reconsidered and took serious steps to cut down on global warming, because if it stays this way, rising sea levels will mean a partial obliteration of our world.
[Photo by Joe Raedle / Getty Images]