New research indicates that when sea levels rise, vast areas of the United States would be inundated by water, causing economic losses estimated in the billions of dollars. Climate Central, a non-profit research organization, conducted an assessment to determine how much money local governments will lose if all that land disappears beneath the waves. Within the next 30 years, the analysis predicts that nearly 650,000 privately owned parcels covering over 4 million acres will be submerged by rising sea levels. Research shows that by the end of the century, the value of that privately owned land might drop by more than $108 billion due to rising sea levels.
As the law states that all ground below the high tide mark belongs to the state, rising sea levels have the potential to wipe out enormous areas of privately owned property on which taxes are now being paid. This will lead to a dramatic drop in property tax revenue in coastal areas, which experts warn could lead to the insolvency of local governments. Tides have been mostly static for millennia. Neither has the “concept that dates well back to Roman times,” as Peter Byrne, head of the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Program, put it, that all land beneath the surface of the ocean is public. If a body of water is navigable, then the land along its shores and the water itself are public spaces. Their very nature makes them accessible to the general people.
However, as the world warms, the historic tide lines are rising. According to the results of the study, by 2050, a landmass larger than the state of New Jersey will be underwater during high tide. Don Bain, a senior adviser with Climate Central and the report’s author, has remarked, “Sea level rise is ultimately going to take land away from people.” We still haven’t accepted that.
The loss of this much privately owned land over the course of a few years might have far-reaching effects. Numerous insurance providers have already abandoned coastal areas or dramatically increased their prices in preparation for future storms. Financial institutions, such as banks, are beginning to weigh the benefits and risks of making loans to coastal residents and enterprises. Overall, it will grow progressively more difficult to make a home in regions that are currently habitable. So, let’s have a look at what this could entail for municipal administrations.
Distributions of Risk Are Not Uniform
In a not-so-surprising finding, Climate Central discovered that the consequences of increasing sea levels are not felt equally across the United States. Greater than average impact is expected along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Because land sinks as sea levels rise, water levels will increase substantially faster in many coastal regions.
Climate Central projects that by the year 2050, water will cover approximately 75% of Terrebonne Parish in Louisiana. New Jersey’s Hudson County would lose $2.4 billion in tax revenue due to flooding. More than 4,200 structures in Galveston County, Texas, will be completely or partially submerged when the tide rises.
According to National Resources Defense Council policy researcher Anna Weber, “climate consequences are not going to happen far out in the future, but during the term of the mortgage on your property.”
While rising seas are certainly one consequence of the climate issue, that is not to say that it is the only one. Supercharged hurricanes and wildfires will also lead people to move in search of safety, which will erode municipal tax bases. Many locations in the United States should anticipate an increase in inland flooding due to the increased frequency of heavy rainstorms. Counties inland will also feel the effects, not only those along the coast.
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Professor of sustainable architecture at Tulane University Jesse Keenan, who was not engaged in the Climate Central study, remarked, “These calculations are pretty cautious.” “That’s what people should be afraid of.”
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