This interactive tool shows you what rising sea levels and climate change will do to American cities

By Ed Hickey

Ever wondered which parts of the US are likely to be sacrificed to rising sea levels? Wonder no more.

This interactive tool released by Climate Central, a group of US climate scientists, allows you to map what sea level rises based on a variety of scenarios, ranging from “ludicrously optimistic” to “inevitable doom”.

Either way, though, things are looking pretty bad for New Orleans:

The maps above projected flood levels in New Orleans in the year 2100. The one on the left shows us how things will stand if we, globally, make the most extreme carbon cuts possible at this stage. The right hand side represents unchecked pollution. Neither is exactly great news, if we’re honest.

The tool allows you to examine the world at different future dates, and in a range of separate scenarios. The most optimistic projection, which will be possible only with extreme carbon cuts, accounts for the expansion of ocean waters as they expand, but nothing more: sea rises will be kept to a bare minimum.

That said, Climate Central’s “extreme” cuts model is far more ambitious than any targets for carbon reduction with international backing. To achieve this best-case scenario, carbon use will have to be tapered to zero by 2070.

Content from our partners
The key role of heat network integration in creating one of London’s most sustainable buildings
The role of green bonds in financing the urban energy transition
The need to grow London's EV infrastructure at speed and scale

At the other end of the spectrum is a projection of what will happen if none of these steps are taken: not just warmer seas, but melting glaciers and the the collapse of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets all contribute to higher tides. In this scenario, a huge swathe of US land, currently home to more than 20m people, will be submerged.

As you’d expect, much of the damage will be to small coastal communities. But at least 21 municipalities of over 100,000 will also be affected.

The yellow and orange dots above maps represent the communities likely to be severely at risk under the minimum and maximum sea level rises during the next 100 years:

The good news is, Climate Central says that over half of these towns could be saved by aggressive carbon cuts. So what would we be saving?

Major chunks of the New York City area for a start, including huge areas of Brooklyn and Queens. Parts of Manhattan including Wall Street could also find itself submerged.

Further up the East Coast in Massachusetts, things look bleak for historic downtown Boston in any scenario. They don’t look much better for neighbouring Cambridge, home to Harvard University.

In some parts of the country, the difference between carbon being cut or unchecked will make all the difference. Want to take a walk along Virginia Beach, VA? Better get down there soon:

And some of the most densely populated areas in the country, such as LA’s Long Beach, will become submerged.

Further up the Californian coast, Sacramento will have a new waterfront district.

The most vulnerable state? Florida – Climate Central says that land currently home to 5.6m people is at risk. Half of this land can be saved through carbon cuts – but Maimi Beach and its surroundings look all but gone.

You can see the full mapping tool here.

This article is from the CityMetric archive: some formatting and images may not be present.
Websites in our network