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American Icons Threatened by Sea Level Rise: In Pictures

Long-term sea level rise set in motion by near-term carbon emissions threatens major American icons. Here we present paired images showing how the Pentagon, the Wall Street Bull, and the Googleplex — symbols of American military, economic, and technological might — could fare under scenarios of business as usual vs. a sharp transition to clean energy.

In the first image for each pair, we show projections of eventual sea level rise that would be locked in following 7.2°F (4°C) of warming from carbon pollution in the coming decades. This pathway corresponds roughly to business as usual.

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In the second image for each pair, we show projections based on 3.6°F (2°C) of warming from carbon pollution. This degree of warming corresponds to the target limit widely discussed today as the threshold to avoid catastrophic climate change — and officially designated as part of the Cancun Agreement, signed in 2010 by international delegates gathered under the umbrella of the United Nations.

A major new round of global climate talks is being held this December in Paris. The decisions reached there may have a strong bearing on which of these two scenarios the future looks like most.

Sea level projections are taken from Climate Central-led research published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The same day, we released a summary, plus interactive maps that allow users to explore the possible consequences of 7.2°F warming, 3.6°F warming, other temperature increases, or various emissions-based scenarios, from unchecked pollution through extreme carbon cuts, for any coastal city or ZIP code in America.

The images below were created by visual artist Nickolay Lamm using sea level rise mapping data developed by Climate Central. 

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