As U.S. Coastal Cities Swell, Rising Seas Threaten Millions
March 14, 2016
A growing number of Americans are moving into homes nestled between the idyllic beaches of the Florida Keys — part of a national trend that’s seeing coastal populations swell even as the seas swell dangerously around them. That combination of rising populations and rising seas could see millions of Americans living in homes that flood regularly during the decades ahead, according to a nationwide analysis published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
In 2014, a Miami-Dade sea level rise task force published what its chairman described as an “urgent, though optimistic, call to begin the step by step process needed to design and build a re-engineered urban infrastructure” capable of withstanding sea level rise.
“Make no mistake, it will be costly, but its costs are dwarfed by the potential human, physical and economic values at stake,” the chairman, County Clerk Harvey Ruvin, wrote in the introductory letter to the group’s report.
Such planning could help reduce the number of Americans impacted by rising seas during the decades to come, alleviating the severity of the dangers highlighted in Monday’s study.
“This analysis is useful in focusing on the very large number of people even in the U.S. who are at risk of climate change,” said Richard Black, a geography professor at the University of London who researchers migration and diasporas. He was not involved with the study. “But it tells us little new about how people will respond.”