The Post

Sinking cities

Say goodbye to New Orleans, Miami and more

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SAY goodbye to Miami and New Orleans. No matter what we do to curb global warming, these and other beloved American cities will sink below rising seas, according to a new study.

But making extreme carbon cuts and moving to renewable energy could save millions of people living in iconic coastal areas of the United States, say the findings in the Proceeding­s of the National Academy of Sciences, a peerreview­ed US journal.

Scientists have already establishe­d that if we do nothing to reduce our burning of fossil fuel up to the year 2100, the planet will face sea level rise of 4.3 to 9.9 metres, says lead author Ben Strauss, vice-president for sea level and climate impacts at Climate Central. The big uncertaint­y is the issue of when.

To bring the issue home for people in the US, the study pinpoints at-risk land where more than 20 million people reside.

The authors projected businessas-usual carbon emissions, in addition to the complicati­on of the melting West Antarctic ice sheet, a process some experts fear is irreversib­le. They also considered what might happen if the world were to make a big turnaround, reaching peak carbon emissions by 2020.

US cities may face ‘‘lock-in dates’’ beyond which the cumulative effects of carbon emissions will probably commit them to longterm sea level rises that could submerge land currently inhabited by more than half of the city’s population, says the study. Norfolk, Virginia, for example, faces a lockin date of 2045 under a scenario of unabated carbon emissions.

For cities like Miami and New Orleans, the limits have already been exceeded.

Florida has the most number of big cities at risk from sea level rise, holding 40 per cent or more of the US population living on potentiall­y affected land. After Florida, the next most affected states are California, Louisiana and New York.

One beloved landmark of American food culture and jazz music, New Orleans, is already sinking. ‘‘New Orleans is a really sad story,’’ Strauss said.

New York City is also in peril, and under a worst-case scenario, the city could be unliveable by the year 2085, according to the study.

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 ?? Photo: REUTERS ?? Scenes like this during flooding in New Orleans are expected to become more frequent as the effects of climate change intensify and sea levels rise, to the point where large areas of the city will be permanentl­y under water. Miami, above left, is also...
Photo: REUTERS Scenes like this during flooding in New Orleans are expected to become more frequent as the effects of climate change intensify and sea levels rise, to the point where large areas of the city will be permanentl­y under water. Miami, above left, is also...
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