Scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a report today that predicted up to a foot of sea level rise by 2050. That’s equal to all the sea level rise that has occurred over the last century.
Researchers at NOAA and a half dozen other federal agencies relied on a combination of data from tide gauges, satellite observations, and climate modeling to reach their conclusion. “The new data on sea rise is the latest reconfirmation that our climate crisis — as the President has said — is blinking code red,” Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, said in a news release posted on the NOAA website. “We must redouble our efforts to cut the greenhouse gases that cause climate change while, at the same time, help our coastal communities become more resilient in the face of rising seas.”
The NOAA report says at least two feet of sea level rise is likely by the end of this century. Other studies say we could see as much as eight feet if not enough is done to curtail the burning of greenhouse-gas-producing coal, oil and natural gas.
“By 2050, moderate flooding — which is typically disruptive and damaging by today’s weather, sea level and infrastructure standards — is expected to occur more than 10 times as often as it does today,” said Nicole LeBoeuf, NOAA National Ocean Service Director, in the news release. “These numbers mean a change from a single event every 2-5 years to multiple events each year, in some places.”
Kristina Dahl, a climate scientists with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Washington Post that 140,000 homes would be put at risk of flooding every other week on average if the NOAA prediction comes true.
Considering that many coastal communities are already spending millions of dollars to combat regular bouts of sea level rise flooding — even in the absence of coastal storms — the NOAA report should act as a call to arms for cities and towns not yet engaged in fighting rising waters. Among the risks for coastal real estate owners is higher taxes — as governments seek ways to fund projects to prevent sea level rise flooding — higher flood insurance premiums, and higher maintenance costs if their properties are inundated by sea water. Condo owners could also face costly special assessments to flood-proof their properties.
Another threat to real estate owners is the possibility that insurers will stop writing policies in flood-stricken areas. Mortgage providers, too might stop providing loans for properties that can’t be insured and that might not be functional for the full term of a 30-year mortgage.