Sea-level rise a risk for millions in the United States

by Lucas Joel
Thursday, July 14, 2016

By 2100, 13.1 million people living in coastal areas of the U.S. could be displaced by rising seas. Credit: North Carolina Department of Transportation, CC BY 2.0.

One of the most obvious consequences of human-induced global warming is glacial melting and the sea-level rise that will occur as a result. Yet, few studies examining the potential toll of sea-level rise in the United States have factored in continuing population growth, according to the authors of a new study in Nature Climate Change. Using population projections for the year 2100, researchers led by Mathew Hauer of the University of Georgia projected how many people in the U.S. would be displaced by then due to sea-level rise of either 0.9 meters or 1.8 meters.

Under the more severe, 1.8-meter scenario, they found that approximately 13.1 million people in coastal counties in the continental U.S. are at risk of inundation by 2100. “Florida accounts for nearly half of the total at-risk population,” they noted, and the “southeastern U.S. alone represents nearly 70 percent of the entire projected population at risk.”

In a press release, Hauer suggested that, by using projected future population, the study provides a more accurate gauge of flooding risks than previous work has. “Adaptation strategies are costly … so the longer we wait to implement adaptation measures the more expensive they become,” he said.

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