Nevertheless, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to minimum and embracing cleaner energy may save the lives and homes of millions of people on both U.S. coasts. The study was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Study authors argue that sea levels may rise by 14 to 32 feet or 4.3 to 9.9 meters if we fail to cut down carbon emissions by the end of this century. Ben Strauss, lead author of the study and climate scientist at Climate Central, said that sea levels would certainly rise, but we do not yet know when exactly.
Strauss said that the rise may happen at the start of the next century or it may take several centuries. He said that we should imagine chunk of ice in a warm room. We know for sure that it will melt but we cannot tell in how many minutes.
The U.S., however, is more exposed to rising sea levels since more than 20 million people live on coastal areas. Scientists believe that carbon emissions combined with the melting of the West Antarctic may lead to more floods and extreme temperature in the areas in the next decades.
Researchers said that situation may be even worse if we reach carbon emissions by 2020, an event predicted for 2050 by world leaders. On the climatecentral.org website you can see how much sea levels can rise if pollution is left unchecked.
According to the tool, you can see that Norfolk, Virginia, is set on a route for disaster if carbon emissions are not reduced by 2045. But other U.S. cities already exceeded the safe threshold that keeps them of that route.
Strauss explained that while some cities may be saved if we manage our carbon emissions, other U.S. cities “appear to be already lost.” That’s why researchers concluded that Miami and New Orleans may be underwater by 2100 despite any prevention efforts.
Miami is also very hard to protect against raging waves because of low elevation and the unstable limestone foundation it is built upon. As a result, walls and levees may not prevent it from sinking for long.
But in New Orleans situation may be worse because the city is already sinking.
Florida will be the most affected U.S. state by incoming sea level rise since 40 percent of its residents live on high-risk coastal areas. California is the next in line, followed by Louisiana and New York.
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