Pollution could cause sea levels to rise and inundate 1,400 American cities

Florida cities to suffer most from sea level rise

TAMPA - A research paper published this week by a respected scientific journal paints a grim portrait of the future of America's coastal cities-- especially here in Florida.

The group "Climate Central" of Princeton, New Jersey provides an interactive map that shows the consequences of rising sea levels caused by global warming. Click on either Tampa or St. Petersburg and you can how much of your neighborhood will be underwater from up to ten feet of sea level increase.

Most of you reading this will be long dead before that's likely to happen, but the authors say without some intervention, it will be a certain disaster for future generations.

Living just above the current sea level, we in the Bay Area know all about storm surge and evacuation routes.  But the new article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science imagines a future where the water rises and doesn't go down.

"In my analysis, St. Petersburg has already been committed to a future where more than a quarter of the city will be below sea level" said author and scientist Ben Strauss. 

Even if the world managed to cease all greenhouse gas emissions tomorrow, the study predicts Pinellas County and the rest of the Bay Area will still lose vast tracts of real estate to the Gulf of Mexico.

The study projects that if we continue with our current rate of greenhouse pollution, 500 Florida towns and cities will be half under water in the long run. But that long run could be centuries. Why the vague timeline?  Strauss uses an analogy.

"If I were to dump a bucket of ice on a table, it would be easy for anyone to say it's all going to melt, but much harder to say which minute it will finish melting. We know we're going to see four feet of sea level rise. We're very confident about that, but we're not confident about how fast it will come" said Strauss.

The study's assumption that man-made CO2 emissions are the cause and the solution to this slow motion flood is shared by most climate scientists. But it remains controversial even among some scientists like USF College of Marine Science professor Robert Weisberg who agreed we need to plan for higher sea levels, but said quote, "Just cutting carbon emissions is not planning."

See the interactive map from Climate Central at:

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