13 Million Americans at Risk of Climate Change Relocation: Study

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March 13, 2016

A new study suggests that as many as 13 million Americans could have to move house because of climate change.

The study, out of the University of Georgia, crunched numbers from census reports, factoring in historical population growth rates, and then created possible models for future clashes between coastal population growth and rising sea levels. In particular, the study found that populations in coastal areas could triple by the turn of the next century, at a time when the worse-case scenario from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has sea levels rising an average of 6 feet. That 6-foot rise in sea and ocean levels would create a ripple effect, submerging U.S. coastal areas and forcing up to 13 million people to move. The study focused on permanent rises in sea level, not on seasonal rises, such as from hurricanes and other intense storms.

One specific area singled out by the study was Miami-Dade County, in Florida. The projected 2100 population in that county is 2 million. Even conservative projections of rises in sea levels call for large parts of that Florida county to be underwater in the next 100 years.

The study’s authors pointed out that their models assumed no great increase in efforts to combat the effects of climate change. Also included as a possible mitigation against the figure of 13 million was the fact that some of the areas examined are already so densely populated that such accelerated growth would not be possible. In that case, however, the result would be only that the number of people forced to move would be less than the worse-case figure.

The study is in the March 14 edition of Nature Climate Change.

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