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Scientists warn rising sea levels could dramatically alter coastal states: 'There is still large uncertainty'

Sea levels have been rising more rapidly over the past several decades as ocean temperatures warm and ice sheets melt.

Sea levels have been rising more rapidly over the past several decades as ocean temperatures warm and ice sheets melt.

Photo Credit: iStock

Scientists are warning that rising sea levels could make the map of the United States look quite different by the end of the century.

What's happening?

As detailed by Newsweek, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that sea levels will be 1.4 to 2.8 feet higher by 2100, but a rise of 6.6 feet "cannot be ruled out." 

If the worst-case scenario were to occur, the Carolinas would be among the most severely impacted U.S. states. At least three coastal counties in North Carolina would be submerged, while parts of Charleston, South Carolina, would form new islands. 

The Florida Keys and parts of Miami would also be no more. Louisiana, whose protective wetlands are already threatened by sea level rise, would also lose chunks of land. Most of New York City and all of Long Island would also be engulfed by ocean waters.  

While the West Coast would be better off because of its mountainous areas, sea level rise would create new islands in San Francisco. Seattle, California's Central Valley, and San Diego would also be heavily affected. 

Why is this important? 

Sea levels have been rising more rapidly over the past several decades as ocean temperatures warm and ice sheets melt. This has left coastal communities and island nations more vulnerable to devastating storm surges and flooding during weather events like hurricanes

During El Niño years, it's normal for severe weather to become more frequent. However, rising global temperatures have further supercharged these storms and caused these events to become more common even during non-El Niño seasons. In the words of journalist and climate tech investor Molly Wood, our changing climate is acting as "steroids for weather."

While it's certain that the ice sheets are melting, it's hard to pinpoint how quickly it could happen, according to University College London professor of ocean and climate science David Thornalley. 

"There is still large uncertainty on just how fast the ice sheets may melt, so it is a topic of real concern," Thornalley told Newsweek. 

What can be done about rising sea levels? 

Reducing our use of dirty fuels can help cool down our planet in the long term, ultimately bringing things back into balance. But in the meantime, many solutions-oriented businesses and governments are developing technologies to adjust to rising sea levels. 

Smart reefs and predictive artificial intelligence systems are showing promise as ways to protect people from flooding events, and some architectural firms have even designed floating homes

In Singapore, a country particularly vulnerable to sea level rise, officials have enacted a plan to reclaim and protect valuable land, with a dam, sand piles and mangroves part of the multi-tiered approach.

Meanwhile, being prepared for extreme weather can help keep you safe. A "go bag" with essentials like prescriptions, hygiene products, and a first aid kit can ensure you have what you need in case of something unexpected. 

If possible, investing in solar panels or signing up for community solar can help keep the lights on in the event of a widespread power outage. FEMA also has designated Community Disaster Resilience Zones to help the most "at risk and in-need jurisdictions." 

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