A report came out today that should leave residents of Miami, New Orleans, Long Beach, Boston, and other coastal cities terrified. The report, from the National Academy of Sciences, says that these cities could be washed away by rising sea levels.
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"Some cities appear to be already lost," study lead author Benjamin Strauss told CBS News. "For New Orleans, there are levees, it's possible to build levees higher and stronger for some time, but that's not necessarily safe or sustainable in the long run. We've already seen what can happen when levees break, when the sea level gets higher, the bigger the tragedy can be."
According to CBS News, carbon emissions need to be fixed by 2100, or sea levels will increase by at least 14 feet, displacing some 20 million people who live along the US coast. The damage could reach 21 cities with more than 100,000 resident each and as many as 1,800 municipalities. However, some cities don't have that long.
Strauss said that each of the endangered cities has a different timeline to fix the problems. New York City has until 2095 to fix the problem, while Hollywood, Florida only has until 2025. Unfortunately for New Orleans and Miami, they are out of time.
Many other cities have distant dates and there is still hope that they will be able to survive with "aggressive carbon cuts" that can help save the West Antarctic ice sheet.
"We are not talking about a sea level rise happening tomorrow," he said. "Instead, we are talking about what could happen if the genie we let out of the bottle continues to grow. We are talking about what could happen if we continue to emit this much carbon into the atmosphere."
Emissions and global warming have been a huge point of contention for many people, and Strauss stressed that these studies ought to be a wake up call for people.
"In the long run, each gallon (of gasoline) we burn eventually ads 400 gallons of water to the ocean," he asserted.
If the loss of land isn't enough to wake people up, the idea that the US will lose resources, money, and vacation spots should be enough.
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"We have a lot of resources, a lot of money compared to most places at risk, I think we have an opportunity to invest, to find an economic opportunity and reduce the pain of loss," Strauss said. "We can pioneer those kinds of measures that could become an expertise we could export to the world. It could be a service."