New tool reveals swaths of American coastline are expected to be underwater by 2050: ‘Time is slipping away’

If you ask Climate Central — which has a coastal risk screening tool that shows an area’s risk for rising sea levels and flooding over the coming decades — Texas’s coastline is in trouble.

The new map-based tool compiles research into viewable projections for water levels, land elevation, and other factors in localized areas across the U.S. to assess their potential risk.

The predictive technology indicates that, under some scenarios, many of Texas’s coastal areas, such as much of Galveston Island, Beaumont, and the barrier islands, will be underwater during floods by 2050.

What’s happening?

Coastal areas face threats from rising sea levels caused by melting ice caps and warming oceans, as well as flooding from storms intensified by changing temperatures. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates more than 128 million people live in coastal communities, many of which will be severely impacted by the effects of higher tides and dangerous storms.

CNN reports that coastal flooding could cost the global economy $14.2 trillion in damages, not including loss of life and well-being, by the end of the century. The loss of land due to sea level rise is also detrimental to the entire ecosystem, disrupting important wetlands and freshwater supplies.

Why is this concerning?

The coastal risk screening tool provides startling insight into how many areas will likely be affected by rising tides and floods, especially if nothing is done to mitigate Earth’s rapidly rising temperatures. As 2050 quickly approaches, time is slipping away to prepare and protect communities and ecosystems from the rising waters.

Planning, approving, and implementing new infrastructure and other major projects to keep communities safe can take years to complete. Because the wheels of bureaucracy turn slowly, cities need to start planning now before they find themselves in too deep.

What’s being done to reduce the risk?

Many of the most vulnerable regions are densely populated and people are already dealing with personal and economic damages from intensified flooding. While some may be able to move or make changes to their homes and communities to prepare for rising waters, not everyone has the means or desire to make these changes.

Several actions may be taken by individuals, organizations, municipalities, and the government to reduce the impacts of coastal flooding. The first step is understanding where the vulnerabilities are, indicates Peter Girard of Climate Central. Protecting existing wetlands and utilizing nature-based solutions such as living shorelines or sand dunes can lessen the impacts of flooding, storm surges, and erosion.

Community developers are encouraged to consider those most vulnerable when implementing coastal resiliency strategies such as shifting populations or building flood walls. Individuals living in flood zones should learn about the risks and obtain insurance protection if available.

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