October 3, 2022
How Rising Sea Levels Could Create Zombie Cities Around America

Coming to shores faster than Americans ever before, And with much of the country’s priceless wealth already concentrated near shorelines, it puts more people and buildings at risk from extreme storms and flooding associated with climate change.

But the toll for many communities across America is likely to go far beyond physical damage. Rising sea levels may have had an effect, effectively creating zombie cities, long before some seaside communities became uninhabitable, according to a new study. analysis

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From the non-profit environmental group Climate Central which looks at the financial impact of sea level rise over the coming century.

“Two New Jerseys”

As the water rises, 650,000 properties in the land area “the equivalent of two New Jerseyans” will be at least partially underwater in 30 years’ time., Don Bain, senior advisor for Climate Central, told reporters in a presentation this week. He said that about 30 counties nationwide are projected to lose more than a tenth of their usable land, while about 100 counties will lose at least 2%.

This would make some places uninhabitable and others economically undesirable by reducing property values ​​and reducing their tax base.

It’s a big problem for communities: Property values ​​and attendant taxes are a significant source of revenue for schools, fire protection and other key municipal services. When real estate falls in value, it can lead to “lower tax revenues and a reduction in public services—the potential decline of disinvestment and population decline, a reduction in the tax base and public services, and so on,” Climate Central reports. said in.

Louisiana is the country’s most vulnerable state, and is projected to lose more than 8% of its landmass by mid-century, according to the group. It is followed by Florida, which is set to lose 1.8% of its land area; North Carolina (1.3%) and Texas (0.2%). While Climate Central only looked at sea level, other research has found areas inland and even closer to rivers. face greater flood risk in the coming decades.


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East Coast most at risk

By 2050, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that sea levels will rise on average by about a foot—more than they have risen in the past 100 years. Climate change is the main driver, as warming temperatures cause landlocked glaciers to be a . melts on record speed And the water spread.

That growth will not spread evenly across the country. Bain said the East Coast, and especially the Southeast, is likely to be the hardest hit. The Gulf Coast will face a double whammy from rising water levels and sinking land due to the continuous flow of sediment from the Mississippi River and many areas being hollowed out. oil and gas pipeline,

There is already regular flooding in coastal parts of southern Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and the Carolinas. during high tideEven without a storm.

“In Mobile Bay, Alabama, we have properties that are now underwater as a result of coastal erosion – and property owners who are still getting property tax bills associated with these properties they can no longer use, Ban said.

Meanwhile, property insurers are pulling out of Florida, where frequent storms and floods are pushing the market to a “breaking point,” according to trade publication Daily Business. review,

SUV driving on the side of a flooded road and houses on the left
A vehicle drives along a flooded road in Dauphin Island, Alabama, as Tropical Storm Gordon approaches on September 4, 2018.

Joe Redl/Getty Images


sinking infrastructure

Smaller cities may be at even greater risk, with smaller budgets, fewer resources and generally less ability to transform their economies than larger cities, making them more vulnerable to climate risks.

“What’s going to happen to the tax base for these local communities? Clearly, the data shows it’s being washed away,” Mark Rupp, director of the adaptation program at the Georgetown Climate Center, told reporters.

Adapting to climate change, whether by raising infrastructure, building seawalls or relocating communities, costs money. And municipalities stand to lose a great deal of their main money stream – property taxes – as more and more land disappears under water.

It’s worth noting that Climate Central’s analysis is incomplete, as not all counties across the country provide data on property values—specifically, researchers could not find information for New Orleans and New York City. But the numbers the group was able to crunch are striking.

For example, in Florida, a tax estimate of $7 billion is estimated to be due to rising waters in coastal areas by mid-century, the group analyzed. In Texas, the estimated damage amount is approximately $5 billion. In North Carolina, $4.5 billion.

2050 seems a long time in the future; This a. is within the time limit of 30 year mortgage Removed today, the researchers note. But they urge politicians to start planning for adaptation and even relocation now, before they are forced to do so by market forces.

“How many mortgage lenders want to lend for mortgages in flood-prone areas if they don’t think they’ll be paid back?” Roop said.

“As much as people don’t want to talk about what’s happening, the effects of climate change are real — they’re happening right now.”

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