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How Sea Level Rise Will Change the Country's Geography

In a worst case scenario, generated by a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, land home to 25 million Americans will be lost to rising seas as a result of climate change.
October 15, 2015, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Master Sgt. Mark C. Olsen

Chris Mooney shares news of a study that details the land on the coast of the United States that will be inundated by sea water as the effects of climate change become more and more cemented into the environment. "Future emissions will determine which areas we can continue to occupy or may have to abandon," according to the report.

Many U.S. cities are "committed to futures below sea level," if climate change continues unchecked. The critical number that drives the study's estimates: "For every one degree Celsius of warming, the scientists estimate that we should expect 2.3 meters of long-term, eventual sea-level rise, playing out over millennia."

Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central in Princeton, N.J. led the study, with co-authors Scott Kulp of Climate Central and Anders Levermann of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

So according to the study's calculations, if the world were to continue with business as usual and suffer the consequences of the sea level rise that would follow, "the current locations of over 26 million Americans’ homes might be inundated, and more than 1,500 U.S. cities and municipalities could find the areas where half of the residents live inundated." For those doing the quick math at home, that's more people than live in each of 48 states in the United States—all but California and Texas.

Climate Central has an interactive map that shows how the country's geography would change in various scenarios of increased temperatures and corresponding sea levels.

A similar study, released last year, targeted Anchorage, Seattle, and Detroit as prime real estate after the seas come for the country's current coastal communities.

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Published on Monday, October 12, 2015 in The Washington Post
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