Millions at risk of chronic flooding this century, new study says

The coastline of Marshfield days after a nor'easter hit in March

The report, released Monday by the Union of Concerned Scientists, projects that climate change-driven sea level rise could make almost 311,000 existing residential and commercial properties in the USA uninhabitable by 2045. "States that could lose the most in home property values by 2100 are Florida at $351 billion, New Jersey at $108 billion, and NY at almost $100 billion". A new report projects that Florida is at the greatest risk of any state for tidal flooding caused by rising sea levels.

Estimates assuming intermediate levels of sea-level increases project that around 5,000 homes would be in danger of chronic flooding by 2035, according to the report. Also, the San Francisco Bay Area, coastal Louisiana, the Eastern Shore of Maryland and beach communities from Texas to MA. The Keys face the largest risk — 41 to 60 percent of its tax base at risk by 2045 and more than 60 percent by 2100.

Warming seas and melting sea ice are causing sea levels to rise, and putting coastal homes at risk of chronic flooding-inundation that happens, on average, 26 times or more per year.

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If properties flood regularly, homeowners risk steep financial losses, along with local services becoming jeopardized, as tax bases erode. Today those homes are worth a collective $586,407,000; they house an estimated 3,426 people; and contribute $7,689,325 to the local property tax base.

Hurricane Sandy flooded the New Jersey shoreline in 2012.

This would be especially problematic for rural and small regions where the tax base is nearly entirely reliant on property tax revenue, the report says. The report focused on the high scenario, which assumes unabated carbon emissions and ice sheet loss that continues at a rapid pace, which would raise global sea level 6.6 feet over the 1992 level by the end of this century. "If the global community adheres to the primary goal of the Paris Agreement of capping warming below 2°C (UNFCCC 2018), and with limited loss of land-based ice, the United States could avoid losing residential properties that are now valued at $780 billion, contribute $10 billion annually in property tax revenue, and house 4.1 million people", the report says. The authors of the research say that this could potentially lead to the most extreme housing crisis the country has ever seen.

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"The impact could be staggering, said Christina Gave (Kristina Dahl), senior scientist-climate scientist Union of concerned scientists (UCS)". "If we manage to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement by keeping warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius and if ice loss is limited, 85 percent of all affected residential properties-valued at $782 billion today and now accounting for more than $10.4 billion in annual property tax revenue to municipal governments-could avoid chronic flooding this century". We can start by doing our part - helping to reduce fossil fuel emissions.

There are now many federal, state and local policies that, while originally well intentioned, mask risk and create incentives that reinforce the status quo or even expose more people and property to risk.

The report includes a risk assessment for a variety of coastal ZIP codes.

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