Rising sea levels could swallow up 650,000 privately owned properties by 2050

There is no longer much doubt about it, as scientists have done increasingly documented How warming planet acceleration Sea level rise along coasts around the world.

But a new analysis published Thursday by the nonprofit Climate Research Central reveals a troubling dimension of the economic toll that could unfold in the United States, as hundreds of thousands of homes, offices and other privately owned properties slide below bloated tidelines over the course of the year. the next few years. contracts.

Here are five observations from the research on the people and places that are likely to lose out the most, the potential multiplier effects and reasons why the world should cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to eventually stop rising waters:

1. Sea-level rise will transform coastlines – and property lines

Researchers at Climate Central took scientific data on projected sea-level rise, as well as information about state tidal limits, and combined that with records of more than 50 million individual properties across hundreds of U.S. counties to identify the parcels most at risk.

Their conclusion: Approximately 650,000 privately owned plots of land, on up to 4.4 million acres of land, are expected to fall below changing tidal limits by 2050. The affected land could swell to 9.1 million acres by The year 2100. According to Thursday’s analysis, real estate with a collective value of $108 billion could be impacted by the end of the century, based on current emissions. But the authors note that because full ownership values ​​are not available for all counties, the actual total is likely to be much higher.

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Changes can also come gradually at first, and then quickly. The authors write that in many societies, structures are clustered in areas that were historically on safe ground. But once sea level rise reaches those heavily developed heights, “the number of damaged buildings increases sharply.”

“As the sea level rises, the tides are moving higher, sloping and inland,” he said. Don Payne, a senior advisor at Climate Central and expert on sea level rise, led the analysis. “People really haven’t caught up to it yet — that ‘Hey, I’m going to take something away from me by the sea.'”

2. The Gulf coast and the Atlantic coast are the most lost

It’s no surprise that Louisiana, as the seas swell and the land sink, faces a horrific property loss in the coming years.

Climate Central analysis estimated that more than 25,000 properties totaling about 2.5 million acres in the state could fall entirely below tidal boundary lines by 2050—a number that far exceeds anywhere else in the state. The report found that this would amount to 8.7 percent of Louisiana’s total area.

But other countries also appear to face widespread threats. The top three places at risk after Louisiana are Florida, North Carolina and Texas, all of which have large stretches of low-lying, vulnerable coastline.

While properties across the Southeast may face the most collective risks, other states also have reasons for concern. New Jersey and New York, for example, will also see thousands of real estate declines in the coming decades. Same for Maryland, where the researchers’ project can see more than 2,500 buildings affected.

The effects of sea-level rise are already evident, with some communities facing the prospect of retreat and an increasing number grappling with inconvenience or “sunny day” flooding.

Ultimately, “problems like this will go from something rare to something natural,” said William Sweet, a NOAA National Ocean Service oceanographer and the nation’s chief scientist on sea level rise.

3. It’s not just about flooded homes. It’s about eroding tax bases.

The loss of homes and other properties – especially those along the waterfront – is not just a tragedy for their owners. It’s a surefire way to dilute the revenue that municipal governments need to operate.

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

If sea levels continue to rise relentlessly, that poses more than just a problem for the beaches and apartments lining the coasts. It will eventually translate into fewer taxable properties, less money to fund schools, fire departments, road repair and sewer maintenance, and savings. Other essential services.

Thursday’s analysis found that “dwindling property values ​​and a smaller tax base can lead to lower tax revenue and reduced public services – a potential downward spiral of investment disinvestment and lower population, lower tax base and public services, etc.”

4. The potential multiplier effects are enormous.

The erosion of tax bases is a big problem. But hardly the only one. The study also found a host of other complications that are likely to lead to sea level rise and higher.

The analysis found that “the legal and political ramifications of these changes are complex, and are likely to vary across locations.” “These ramifications extend far beyond the loss of tax revenue as landlords object to paying taxes on flooded land.”

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In addition to those initial shocks, municipalities and individuals will also have to contend with the huge costs of removing flooded structures and flooded septic tanks. Governments can be on the hook for abandoned properties, adding extra expenses not covered by their budgets.

But even before that, local communities are already struggling with the need to repair flood-damaged streets and roads, as well as overcrowded or outdated sewage and water systems. “How city and county management teams respond to these risks, or if they respond at all, is critical to the city and county’s future ability to repay debt and protect its credit rating,” the authors wrote.

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

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

These results are in line with the specialization Report Earlier this year from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which found that sea levels along US coasts could rise by about a foot between now and 2050 – about as much change over the next three decades as has happened over the past century.

“This pathway appears to be somewhat specific,” said Sweet, who was not involved in Thursday’s study.

What remains undefined is how Communities across the United States Prepare for the changes they know are coming, and what this country and others are doing to slow the heating of the planet.

“If we do our work together, we can get to a lower curve, and that buys us time,” Payne said. “we do not want [seas] Rising so fast that it is beyond our ability to adapt.”

Sweet said data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and related efforts, such as Thursday’s study, hope to give government officials and individuals the information they need “so they can make smart choices to defend and prepare against rising seas” — from infrastructure support. To make informed decisions about development.

But in the end, he said, the world must work in concert to make sure the problem doesn’t get infinitely worse.

“Emissions are important, especially as we get past the next 20 or 30 years,” Sweet said. “You reduce emissions, and you reduce the potential for sea levels to rise.”

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