According to a study published last month, sea levels are rising at the fastest pace in at least 28 centuries. Now a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia estimates that as many as 13.1 million people living in the United States would be at risk due to rising sea levels by 2100. Findings of the study were published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Rising oceans already affecting coastal communities
Florida will be the worst affected. Lead author Mathew Hauer said if climate change lifts oceans by six feet as many scientists forecast, it will disrupt the lives of more than 6.5 million people in Florida alone. Rising seas have already made several US coastal communities vulnerable to tidal floods and storm surges. One million each are estimated to be affected in California and Louisiana.
Even if the world manages to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, the sea levels are expected to rise at least three feet. It will force more than four million Americans to adapt or find higher ground. These estimates are three times higher than most current predictions. Mathew Hauer said the past studied underestimated the number of people at risk because they did not take into account population growth over the coming decades.
Combining rising sea levels with population growth
For the study, scientists combined predicted sea level rise with future population estimates. Hauer warned that we would see massive migration if we don’t deploy protection against sea level rise. The longer we wait to implement protective measures, the more expensive they would become. Researchers estimated that the total cost of relocating 13.1 million people affected by rising sea levels would be $14 trillion.
On a global scale, it will have a more devastating impact on hundreds of millions of people, mainly in developing countries that are ill-equipped to cope. A previous study estimated that even under the most optimistic scenarios, land currently occupied by more than 200 million people will submerge.