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13 million in U.S. could lose homes due to rising seas

Posted by Suyeon Yang on March 21, 2016

Click to enlargeA study recently published in Nature finds that sea levels could rise six feet by the year 2100, putting 13 million U.S. residents at risk of losing their homes.

The projection is based on demographic changes in population over this century and on forecasts of flooding risk by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It looked at all 319 coastal counties in the lower 48 states.

This "severe" scenario envisions a 4C temperature rise from pre-industrial levels, resulting in sea level rise driven by the gradual collapse of the Antarctic ice sheets and thermal expansion (the ocean expands as it warms).

According to the study, low-lying counties in Florida, Louisiana and North Carolina are the most vulnerable places in the U.S. Florida would face population displacement of more than six million people, accounting for nearly half the total affected population under this scenario.

The study warns that relocating the affected people to new homes will be highly expensive. Relocation of Alaskan villages affected by rising seas has cost an estimated $1 million per resident.

Global average sea level over the years of 1880-2014 has continued to rise by around eight inches, according to NASA. We can't ignore the fact that rising seas could destroy homes and neighborhoods. Yet the ultimate key to coping with this issue doesn't lie in relocating our cities and roads. It lies in solving the underlying problem – climate change -- by reducing carbon and methane emissions through energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Only if we slow and eventually stop climate change will we be able to halt further sea-level rise.

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