It’s no secret that climate change is well on its way to dramatically changing our way of life. One of the most profound, terrifying aspects of climate change is the melting of the polar ice caps, thus causing sea level rise. In the United States alone, sea level rise could displace more than 13 million people by 2100.
Many people in the United States and around the world, while they support action to fight climate change, don’t really understand the far-reaching impacts of climate change. And in a lot of ways, you can’t blame them for that. It’s something humanity has never experienced in such a dramatic way.
A new study released by Nature Climate Change finds something rather terrifying: more than 13 million Americans could lose their homes to climate change, specifically sea level rise, by 2100. They based their findings on the current rate of sea level rise.
Previously, scientists estimated that only around 2.5 million people were likely to be displaced globally, but this new study indicates the number would be much, much higher. Sea level projections in 2017 indicate that our coastlines could rise up to 6 feet by the end of the century.
“It is generally understood that SLR of 1–2 m could lead to widespread human migration as residents of highly vulnerable coastal communities look to escape rising water levels,” saysMathew Hauer, a climate change and migration expert at the University of Georgia.
“With up to 180 million people directly at risk to SLR in the world and over 1 billion living in the lower-elevation coastal zone, understanding the ramifications of these potential migrants in destination communities is a priority for climate change research.”
The study also took into consideration U.S. population growth and migration, basing their prediction on 70 years of data.
The refugee situation and the sheer level of human suffering is hard to wrap your mind around. Populations of huge cities, like New York, Miami, and San Francisco have the most to lose. Inland cities will need to be ready to accept those refugees, and there is no infrastructure in place to deal with a human crisis of that scale.
The cost of inaction is high. The study found that dealing with sea level rise could top $1 trillion by 2100.