Our Disappearing Coastlines: The Cost of Extreme Weather

Coastline cities around the world are exposed to climate-related risks, including sea-level rise and changes to marine ecosystems and the economies they support.

By Scott Huntington

The Hamptons, South Beach, San Diego and Nantucket are all gorgeous shore communities that provide vacationers with a needed respite and others with a warming home. Sadly, these beacons of vibrancy, trade and culture are becoming a dying breed. Their predator is climate change, and it is relentless and costly. Catastrophic storms, displaced families and hefty taxpayer clean-up programs litter the trail of the disappearing shoreline.

The cost of extreme weather

Coastal communities are hit hardest by flooding. Higher temperatures are melting the earth’s ice sheets and causing the ocean’s water to expand onto land. Coupled with increases in the likelihood of extreme weather, which often bring rainfall, water is quickly becoming one of our greatest threats. With nearly 25 million people living by a shore in the United States, it’s important to understand how pervasive flooding can be.

Increased flooding is dispelling myths, like the notions that flooding isn’t common, or that it only occurs after heavy rains and only happens in low-lying areas. In fact, 90 percent of all U.S. natural disasters involve some sort of flooding.

And flooding isn’t the only problem. Take the abnormally large blizzard that hit New York City this past January. Three people died during while shoveling snow, and the city was left with two feet of frozen water. That’s a lot of cleanup — and a lot of money needed to repair not only homes, but also businesses, roads and habitats.

Rising sea temperatures and marine life

Changing currents and rising sea temperatures are causing significant disruptions. While some may claim the death of distant animals may not impact them personally, it’s important to remember that the ocean also absorbs carbon dioxide from the air — which is something we all need for it to do.

While the ocean has dutifully cleaned up the carbon dioxide we produce and survived our industrial revolution, we have repaid it with lowering pH levels. This creates a more acidic habitat that adversely affects coral, mollusks and plankton, to name a few. While the ocean absorbing our carbon dioxide tab has benefited us in the short term, we may soon be paying it back with interest.

The next step

While many can agree on taking some sort of action to combat the costs of climate change, the answer of how to pay for it is not as easy to settle.

When world leaders are debating climate change in regard to responsibility, it should come as no surprise that there is a contentious debate: Should homeowners who decide to purchase land in higher-risk areas be bailed out by all taxpayers? Are companies that pump out greenhouse gases responsible? Or maybe a tax will be added to products depending on how far they had to travel to get on a store shelf?

Finding a consensus is going to be difficult, and coastal flooding is continuing to increase. Hopefully, the impending deadline from nature will encourage us to work together, but just in case, it might be a good time to sell any ocean property. Weather events can be fairly unpredictable, though it’s certain that climate change is impacting the coasts.

Image credit: Pexels

Scott Huntington is a writer and blogger. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington

Climate & Environment

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