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Batten down the hatches, sea level is rising
Policymakers, beware. And prepare for a rise in sea level of 20 inches and the inundation of 13,000 square miles of land by the year 2100, says the co-author of a report for the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
"The oceans have a considerable amount of momentum in their expansion, so sea level rise would continue into the next century (past 2100) even if temperatures were stabilized next month," said Gary Yohe, an economics professor at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
Yohe is the co-author of a report on the impact of sea level rise. The study, released this week by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, promotes progressive policies for land use to help mitigate the economic impact of sea level rise.
According to the report, costs associated with a rising sea level range from $20 billion to $150 billion, depending on how humans adapt to the change. The high end of the range reflects policymaking to protect all areas that are currently vulnerable.
"Damages and economic losses could be reduced if local decision-makers understand the potential impacts of sea level rise and use this information for planning," said Pew Center president Eileen Claussen in a statement.
The effects of sea level rise include erosion of beaches, inundation of deltas, loss of wetlands, increased storm activity and environmental degradation owing to recreation and development.
The areas most vulnerable to sea level rise include mid- and south-Atlantic states, the Gulf Coast and parts of New England. On the West Coast, the San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound are most vulnerable.
These communities can begin to address the impact of a rising sea level by setting development restrictions, planning how and when to rebuild infrastructure such as storm drains, and constructing sea walls to protect valuable property, said Yohe.
One item left out of the assessment of sea level rise is the value of wetlands, which protect inland property, serve as filter for wastewater and provide habitat for a wide range of wildlife.
"It strikes me that wetlands are under more stress from other sources than from slow sea level rise," said Yohe. "Development decisions that take their location into account can help in their preservation and complement storm and sea level rise plans designed to minimize damage."
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