Sea-Level Rise Threatens 300 Million Homes by 2050—Here’s the Most Important Thing You Can Do to Stop It

Photo: Getty Images/Westend 61
Newly released data reveals the catastrophic effect of rising sea levels, painting a stunning picture for the future of the planet. Estimates produced by Climate Central, a science organization based in New Jersey, more than triple previous projections for sea-level rise by 2050. In little more than 30 years, water threatens to overtake highly-populated cities like Shanghai, mainland China's commercial capital, and Alexandria, Egypt's second-largest city with unparalleled historical significance.

The common narrative around such climate reports too often skews toward cutting down use of plastic straws, swapping your car for public transportation, and watching your electricity usage. These choices for personal responsibility make a measurable impact, but they fall short of enlisting people with the power to make the biggest difference of all: elected officials.

It's our job as inhabitants of the planet to vote for candidates who prioritize its health—those who will create policy that regulates the use of carbon emissions, for example. "People in the U.S. and across the world need to know that carbon emissions play a key role in determining how fast or slow sea levels rise," says Scott Kulp, PhD, senior computational scientist at Climate Central who helped author the study. "The more we reduce greenhouse gas pollution, the more time coastal communities will have to plan and respond to this threat."

"For coastal cities, sea-level rise is an existential threat. It's truly above politics." —Scott Kulp, PhD

Concern over sea levels rising should inundate political differences, says Dr. Kulp. "At the core of our mission is making climate science like this available to the public, to let people decide for themselves how to respond," he tells Well+Good. "For coastal cities, sea-level rise is an existential threat. It's truly above politics." This isn't an issue of red verses blue; it's an issue of land verses water.

"Our findings reveal more vulnerability to rising seas than we could have known, especially in Asia where so many people and so much of the world's manufacturing and shipping centers are based. That makes sea level rise a global threat with the potential to directly impact the U.S.," says Dr. Kulp.

This future isn't far away. It's imminent. Thirty years from now, people you know and love will still be alive. (Heck, you'll probably still be alive!) Make sure that the choices you're making today—and November 3, 2020—represent what you want for your future and our planet. And vote.

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