Sea Rise Will Submerge Hundreds of Thousands of US Homes and Buildings by 2050

According to a new analysis, hundreds of thousands of homes and other properties on millions of acres in the U.S. will be submerged by seawater by 2050. This has major implications for homeowners as well as public services in their communities. Tax bases in hundreds of US counties are expected shrinking.

Climate Central is a non-profit research group examined the sea level rise that’s been projected by experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) — which found earlier this year that sea levels in U.S. coastal areas could rise by about one foot by 2050 — tidal boundary lines, and records regarding more than 50 million properties in coastal areas, finding that nearly 650,000 individual properties are most at risk of falling below tidal boundaries within the next three decades.

“Sea level rise is shifting the high and low tide lines that coastal states use to define boundaries between public and private property,” said Climate Central. “As these boundaries shift, private property will be lost to permanent coastal flooding.”

Louisiana has the most homes and other buildings at risk, with more than 25,000 properties across 2.5 million acres expected to fall below tide level boundaries by 2050 — amounting to 8.7% of the state’s total land area being inundated by sea water.

Florida, Texas, and North Carolina are the next most at-risk state in the country, accounting for 87% each of the land lost to the sea. New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Maryland were also identified in states that are most likely to see thousands more properties submerged.

Don Bain (a senior adviser at Climate Central), was the researcher. told The Washington PostThis analysis should be a wakeup call for frontline communities who must adapt to the sea level rise as government inaction continues to increase carbon emissions.

“As the sea is rising, tide lines are moving up elevation, upslope and inland,” Bain told The Post. “People really haven’t internalized that yet — that ‘Hey, I’m going to have something taken away from me by the sea.’”

The one foot of sea level rise that’s projected to take place over the next 30 years roughly matches the change that’s taken place over the past century, and the rise is expected to accelerate after 2050. More than 1 million buildings worth $108 billion combined will be submerged at the highest tide by 2100.

“Sea level rise disaster is closer than we thought,” said climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck in response to the analysis.

Alice Hill, senior fellow for energy and the environment at the Council on Foreign Relations, said in a statement that the study could help communities assess their risk of “the economic impacts of sea level rise,” as coastal communities are expected to lose a significant amount of taxable properties in the coming decades — leaving local governments with less revenue to fund schools, road construction and repair, fire departments, and other public services.

“Understanding where and when financial impacts will be most acute can inform action and support at the state and national level, assisting local efforts to maintain critical services and adapt to our changing climate,” said Hill.

NOAA has warned of a 1 foot rise in sea level by 2050. However, scientists agree that reducing fossil fuel emissions will slow down the planet’s heating. melting glaciers and ice sheets across the globe and warming the Earth’s oceans, causing their volume to expand.

“If we get our act together, we can get to a lower curve, and that buys us time,” Bain told The Post. “We don’t want [seas] rising so fast that it outpaces our capacity to adapt.”

Climate Central’s research was released weeks after President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, garnering applause from progressives for the package’s $369 billion in climate action and energy security investments — while also provoking condemnationClimate campaigners. The law mandates a continuation of oil and gas drilling and includes a carbon capture scheme, which critics say is meant to “extend the life of the fossil fuel industry.”

“Emissions matter, especially as we get beyond the next 20 or 30 years,” oceanographer and sea level rise expert William Sweet told The Post. “You reduce emissions, you reduce your likelihood of higher sea levels.”