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U.S. Cities We Could Lose to the Sea

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By Climate Central

Historic carbon emissions have already locked in enough future sea level rise to submerge most of the homes in each of several hundred American towns and cities, according to Climate Central-led research published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The animated timeline on this page maps, year by year, how the total number of locked-in cities could climb to more than 1,500, if pollution continues unchecked through the end of the century. It also lays out an alternative timeline based on extreme carbon cuts, leading to fewer than 700 locked-in cities. You can watch threats unfold nationwide or for individual states, and track the potential fate of each municipality. Click on the “Start” button to begin.

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Our research does not project, and this animation does not show, exactly when sea level will reach heights great enough to pose these dangers — likely centuries. Rather, our findings assess when enough carbon pollution will have accumulated, under each scenario, to lock in future sea level rise posing existential threats for each town or city — sea level rise that could submerge land where more than half of today’s population lives. This summary discusses the research and findings further.

What will the nation's coastlines look like in the future, after global warming has had its inexorable, long-term effect on sea level rise? How many cities could be lost to permanent inundation? And which ones might we spare by cutting carbon emissions now? Explore the interactive.

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