Sea level rise real threat to communities worldwide. But new research helps us visualize precisely what could happen to U.S. cities provided carbon emissions are unchecked, the Antarctic ice sheet keeps melting and global warming continues at present rates.
The study, authored by Benjamin Strauss with the Climate Central, Princeton, Anders Levermann with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany and Scott Kulp with Climate Central, U.S., is accompanied by a detailed, accurate map designed by Climate Central scientists to help put everything in perspective.
The map puts the scientific findings in perspective. What happens to U.S. cities under different scenarios in the future? It largely depends on the course of action we choose to take. For some, it pans out, there is little hope that even reaching a zero-carbon future and withholding global warming within ‘normal’ limits will help them escape the rising sea levels. Water will be on their doorsteps, and will slowly reclaim territory in time, flooding the cities.
Others still stand a chance. The study and map topographic contours of the U.S. coast to sea level rise due to carbon emissions. The dreaded result of large swaths of the U.S. coast being flooded is due to the process dubbed locked in rise. Carbon emissions ending up in the atmosphere are banking energy. Which leads to the atmosphere warming, which creates the greenhouse effect on our planet.
As the atmosphere warms, global temperature rises. The huge masses of ice are already experiencing unprecedented melting, which add to the global sea level rise. The study, featuring in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is titled “Carbon choices determine U.S. cities committed to futures below sea level”.
As the title already indicated, a future below sea level largely depends on what action is taken now concerning carbon emissions. Several studies, including this one have linked each degree Celsius adding to the global temperature to a 2.3-meter sea level rise. This effect will not be felt immediately, but rather play out over centuries.
According to the new study, current increases in global temperature linked to carbon emissions already translate into a sea level rise of 1.6 meters or over five feet on the long-term. Considering current carbon emissions and the already existing infrastructure including fossil-fuel energy, coal plants and so on, things don’t look too bright. Specifically, the over five-feet increase would grow to a seven-feet increase.
World governments and citizen initiatives alike are already dedicating efforts to cutting emissions. As such, the scenario that would see over 600 cities on the U.S. coast underwater over the following centuries is not too likely to pan out.
Photo Credits: YouTube