Sea level rise may put nearly a trillion dollars of U.S. coastal homes underwater by the end of the century, a new real estate study has found.
Storm surges and higher tidal flows caused by climate change could gobble almost 1.9 million houses in hundreds of cities, according to a report by the real estate company Zillow. In total, homeowners could lose some $882 billion by 2100.
The report published Tuesday is based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) maps showing which coastal areas will be underwater with a projected sea level rise of six feet, in conjunction with the company’s database of more than 100 million homes nationwide. Six feet is the amount of sea level rise scientists most recently estimated in a study on climate change published in March.
Sea level rise stems from human-caused climate change now warming the planet and the oceans, multiple studies have found. Warming waters increasingly melt glaciers and ice sheets, increasing ocean volume around the globe. In addition, climate change is expected to cause more powerful storms and hurricanes, which adds to the problem. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists backed by the United Nations, has said global mean sea level rise will go on for centuries beyond 2100, unless greenhouse gas emissions are scaled back.
Florida would suffer the largest losses under the business-as-usual scenario, according to the report. Sea level rise would take one in eight Florida homes, accounting for nearly half of the lost housing value nationwide. In Hawaii, about one in 10 houses are at risk, particularly in Honolulu. Other noteworthy cities include Boston, which would lose nearly 20 percent of its housing stock; and Miami, which would lose 30 percent of its houses. Yet as the threat of climate change looms more than ever, the report notes that oceanfront properties are much desired and valuable. As a result, it’s likely that more homes will be located closer to the water by the end of the century, and if that’s the case, the estimates would fall on the conservative side.
The notion that climate change and sea level rise poses serious threats to coastal cities and towns is nothing new. In fact, for some places the threat is already triggering action. Taholah, a town of the Quinault Nation in Washington state, is in the early stages of an unprecedented move that will take the town half a mile away from the Pacific Ocean in the next two decades.
And just last week, a Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analysis found that several U.S. military installations along the East and Gulf Coasts are at risk of flooding and land loss due to climate change in the next thirty years. Some of the bases, like the Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, are taking action already and raising electrical equipment, installing flood barriers, flood storage, and pump systems.