A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that 1,400 cities and towns in the United States will be submerged underwater unless air pollution can be controlled.
According to investigators, prior greenhouse gas emissions have already secured a future sea-level rise of 4 feet that will flood parts of 316 municipalities around the U.S. And if global warming continues at its current rate through 2100 an additional 1,100 cities could be under water at high tide.
"It's like this invisible threat," says author Benjamin Strauss,a scientist at Climate Central, a non-profit non-advocacy research group based in Princeton, N.J.
Strauss adds that there's a misconception regarding the future of the planet and greenhouse gas emissions as people believe the problem of sea level rising will go away if emissions are stopped.
"The current trend in carbon emissions likely implies the eventual crippling or loss of most coastal cities in the world," he writes, adding that carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for centuries contributing to higher temperatures and the loss of Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.
To calculate the U.S. cities that would be at risk according to his prediction, Strauss used elevation data and 2010 Census population figures. He found that Florida is the most vulnerable state by far and that New York and New Jersey are a close second and third.
However, the study finds that the whole thing could be avoided or at least mitigated with deep pollution cuts and a technology that could absorb CO2 form the atmosphere.
If things continue as they are, Strauss predicts that Galveston Texas will be the first city to go underwater in 2030 followed by Miami, Fla. in 2040, Norfolk, Va. and Coral Gables, Fla. in 2044 and Virginia Beach, Va. in 2054.