Sea level rise could swallow 650,000 privately owned homes by 2050


There is no longer any doubt as scientists have increasingly documented how the warming of the Planet has accelerated Sea level rise on the coasts of the world.

But a new analysis released Thursday by the nonprofit research organization Climate Central reveals a worrying dimension of the economic damage that could unfold across the United States if hundreds of thousands of homes, offices and other private properties fall under the tide over the next few years swelling tide lines slipping decades.

Here are five research findings on the people and places with the most to lose, the likely impacts, and reasons why the world needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to eventually stem the rise of water:

1. Rising sea levels will shift coastlines — and property lines

Climate Central researchers took scientific data on projected sea level rise and state tidal line information and combined it with records from more than 50 million individual properties in hundreds of US counties to identify the parcels most likely at risk.

Their conclusion: Nearly 650,000 individual privately owned parcels on up to 4.4 million acres of land are expected to fall below the changing tidal lines by 2050. The affected land could swell to 9.1 million acres by 2100 with a collective estimated value of $108 billion could be affected by the end of the century based on current emissions. However, the authors noted that the actual total is likely much higher since full property values ​​were not available for all counties.

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The changes could also be gradual at first and then rapid. According to the authors, in many communities structures are clustered in areas that historically stand on solid ground. But once sea levels reach these densely built elevations, “the number of buildings affected increases sharply.”

“As the sea rises, the tide lines move up, uphill, and inland,” said Don Bain, a senior adviser at Climate Central and an expert on sea level rise, who led the analysis. “People haven’t really gotten that — that ‘hey, something’s being taken from me at the ocean.'”

2. The Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast will lose the most

It’s no surprise that, where the seas swell and the land sinks, Louisiana faces a daunting loss of property in the years to come.

The Climate Central analysis estimated that more than 25,000 properties totaling nearly 2.5 million acres in the state could fall entirely below tidal limits by 2050 — a number that far exceeds any other location in the state. That would account for 8.7 percent of Louisiana’s total land area, according to the report.

But other states also appear to be facing widespread threats. The top three hazards beyond Louisiana are Florida, North Carolina, and Texas, all of which have large stretches of low-lying, vulnerable coastline.

While real estate in the Southeast may face the greatest collective risk, other states also have cause for concern. New Jersey and New York, for example, will see thousands of properties fall below the flood line in the coming decades. The same applies to Maryland, where more than 2,500 buildings could be affected, according to the research project.

The impact of sea level rise is already evident as some communities face retreat and growing numbers struggle with nuisance or “sunny” flooding.

Eventually, such problems will “go from being rare to common,” said William Sweet, an oceanographer with the NOAA National Ocean Service and the nation’s leading scientist on sea level rise.

3. It’s not just about flooded houses. It’s about eroding the tax base.

The loss of homes and other properties – especially those on the waterfront – isn’t just a tragedy for property owners. It’s a surefire way to undermine the revenue local governments need to function.

“Ultimately, this is a local issue and a local story,” Bain said. “We fund local government through our property taxes.”

If sea levels continue to rise unabated, it poses more than just a problem for the beaches and condos that line the shores. This will ultimately result in less taxable real estate and less money to fund schools and fire departments, repair roads, maintain sewers and utilities other essential services.

“Decreased property values ​​and a smaller tax base may lead to lower tax revenues and reduced public services — a potential downward spiral of divestment and population decline, reduced tax base and public services, and so on,” Thursday’s analysis noted.

4. The possible domino effects are enormous.

Erosive tax bases are a big problem. But hardly the only one. The study also found a litany of other complications likely to arise as sea levels continue to rise and rise.

“The legal and policy implications of these changes are complex and will likely vary from site to site,” the analysis reads. “These impacts go well beyond the loss of tax revenue as property owners refuse to pay taxes on submerged land.”

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Aside from these initial shocks, communities and individuals will also be forced to bear the significant costs of cleaning up flooded buildings and flooded septic tanks. Governments could be hooked on abandoned properties and incur additional costs that are not covered by their budgets.

But even before that, communities are struggling with the need to repair flood-damaged streets and roads, and overburdened or aging sewer and water systems. “How city and county government teams respond to these risks, or whether they respond at all, is essential to the city and county’s future ability to repay debt and protect its creditworthiness,” the authors wrote.

5. The future is not (entirely) set in stone.

The world’s leading scientists have found that given the carbon accumulated in the atmosphere after generations of burning fossil fuels, sea level rise is increasing and will continue for the next few decades.

Those findings align with a major report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earlier this year, which found that sea levels along U.S. coasts could rise about a foot by 2050 — about that much change over the next three decades as well as the last century.

“That trajectory seems somewhat fixed,” said Sweet, who was not involved in Thursday’s study.

It remains unclear how communities in the United States Prepare for the changes you know are coming and what this country and others are doing to slow the planet’s warming.

“If we pull ourselves together, we can get to a lower corner and that buys us time,” Bain said. “We do not want to [seas] is increasing so rapidly that it is beyond our ability to adapt.”

Sweet said NOAA’s data and related efforts, like Thursday’s study, will hopefully give officials and individuals the information they need “so they can make the wise decisions to best defend themselves and defend themselves against the.” preparing for rising seas” – from supporting infrastructure to making thoughtful decisions about development.

But ultimately, he said, the world must act together to ensure the problem doesn’t worsen indefinitely.

“Emissions are important, especially as we get beyond the next 20 or 30 years,” Sweet said. “You reduce emissions, you reduce the likelihood of higher sea levels.”

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