Northeast Underwater? How Climate Change Will Affect Your Region (by Dan Schwalb)


“Global Warming,” once a taboo phrase that few took seriously, is now a phenomenon that 90% of the world’s scientists swear by. Also known as climate change, this process includes rising temperatures on a global scale, rising sea levels, and an increase in devastating natural disasters. Climate change will hit coastlines especially hard, with rising sea levels and hurricanes threatening to leave major cities under water.  

Courtesy: Tumblr

The East Coast of the United States is home to some of the most important cities on the globe, New York and Washington. Altogether, the region consists of a “megalopolis,” sprawling from Boston, Massachusetts down through the D.C. region, and includes the Tri-State, Philadelphia, and Baltimore metro areas.

The North East is more in danger of rising sea levels than any other part of the country. Water levels on the Atlantic Ocean are rising twice as fast as the Pacific Ocean. New York City, New Jersey, Boston and Baltimore will be hit the worst, because these urban areas lie directly on large bodies of water.

So What Do We Do About This Problem?


Giant flood barriers must be erected in order for these cities to hold up long term. It is estimated that a protection system for New York/New Jersey would cost $15 billion, and this is just for the initial barrier. Over time, the barrier may require additional construction to keep up with the rising seas.

Hurricanes are expected to get worse in the North East region as well. Because ocean temperatures are heating up, hurricanes will be able to travel farther up  the Atlantic coastline. Hurricane Sandy might ring a bell, the 2012 superstorm that demolished the Jersey Shore as well as parts of New York City. Over time, the likelihood of these types of storms will only grow stronger.
Hurricane Sandy hitting the Northeast in 2012. Courtesy: University of Florida
Even inland cities, such as Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are at risk of climate change. Philadelphia lies on the Delaware River and D.C. lies on the Potomac, both of which connect to larger bodies of coastal water. The Delaware and Potomac will continue to rise as a result, and increase the flood risks for these great urban centers. Philly and D.C. will also have to erect flood barriers at some point, otherwise the Liberty Bell and the Jefferson Memorial may be in for a washing.
Courtesy: The Atlantic

As residents of the East Coast, where should we live to avoid these possible devistating changes?

Unfortunately, there are no regions in the East Coast that are safe from rising sea levels AND have stable economies.  All of the jobs lie in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor, in areas close to the water.

Inland cities on the east coast have been declining for years and current trends show they will continue to shrink as our major urban areas grow.  Places like Allentown, Pennsylvania and Albany, New York are far enough inland to avoid rising seas, but the economies of these places are no match for our major population centers.

As young people looking to make it in the real world, we will almost certainly have to live near the water. Our best bet may be to accept the possible devastation of climate change, and hope our cities implement the best protection against the forces of nature.



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