Sea Level Rise: New Interactive Map Shows What’s at Stake in Coastal Congressional Districts

, climate scientist | September 21, 2018, 8:59 am EDT
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A new interactive map tool from the Union of Concerned Scientists lets you explore the risk sea level rise poses to homes in your congressional district and provides district-specific fact sheets about those risks. Explore the interactive map.

No matter where you live along the coast, chances are that rising seas will begin to reshape your community to one degree or another in the coming decades. Communities that want to be prepared for the changes to come will need representatives in Congress who will advocate for the research, funding, and policies we need to address sea level rise and coastal flooding head-on. As we head into the midterm elections this fall, this tool provides a resource for both visualizing your community’s future as sea level rises and engaging with congressional candidates around the issue of climate change.

In this post you’ll learn how to explore this tool, how to get facts about sea level rise specifically for your congressional district, and how to take action within your community in light of the upcoming elections.

Explore how homes in your congressional district will be affected by sea level rise

The mapping tool is fairly simple. Clicking on any coastal congressional district in the contiguous United States will bring up information on the number of homes at risk of chronic inundation–or flooding, on average, every other week–as sea level rises. You’ll also get information about how much those at-risk homes are collectively worth, an estimate of the number of people living in those homes, and their current contribution to the property tax base.

Each district also has an accompanying district-specific fact sheet with statistics and information about chronic inundation risks. You can explore both near-term and long-term projections for a scenario with relatively rapid sea level rise and one with more moderate sea level rise.

While some districts have more homes at risk than others, every coastal district faces some degree of risk. New Jersey’s 2nd District– encompassing roughly the southern quarter of the state, including Atlantic City, Ocean City, and Cape May–is among the most exposed districts in the country, with more than 45,000 homes at risk of chronic inundation within the next 30 years.

Florida’s 26th District, which covers the southernmost tip of Florida and the Florida Keys, is also highly exposed with more than 12,000 homes at risk of chronic inundation by 2045.

More than 45,000 of the existing homes in New Jersey’s 2nd District are at risk of chronic inundation in the next 30 years.

 

In a state with some of the highest overall exposure to sea level rise, Florida’s 26th District stands out as being acutely at risk of chronic inundation.

Fact sheets available for every coastal Congressional district in the lower 48

With more than 10,000 homes at risk of chronic inundation in South Carolina’s 1st District, there’s a lot at stake. Our district-specific fact sheets can help you to assess just how much is at risk in your district as sea level rises.

When you click on any district in the map, the accompanying pop-up window includes a “Learn more” link, which brings you to a two-page fact sheet for that district. Included in each fact sheet is information about the number and value of homes at risk over the near-term (by 2045) and long-term (by 2100). There are also statistics about the percentage of homes that could potentially avoid chronic inundation if we limit future warming to below 2 degrees Celsius and future loss from land-based ice is limited.

The second page of the fact sheet highlights the implications of chronic flooding more broadly, and includes recommended policies for local, state, and federal policymakers.

Candidates running for Congress in coastal districts need to know the risks of rising seas

This tool enables people and policymakers along the coast to better understand when and to what extent sea level rise and coastal flooding will impact their communities. But what we do with that understanding is critical, particularly when it comes to ensuring that coastal congressional candidates fully recognize and acknowledge the risk, and have a plan for addressing it.

Here are four ways you can take this information to the candidates in your district—and ask them what they’re going to do about it:

  1. Reach out to candidates on social media. If you’re on Twitter, tweet at the candidates in your district. Include a key fact or two on rising seas in your district, link to the map or fact sheet, and ask them what their plans are to address the issue. Make sure you include candidates’ Twitter handles in your tweet so that candidates or their staff see it—you can find information about candidates on your ballot, including their Twitter handles, here. (Note that Twitter is including a special election label on each candidates’ official account to help you verify the correct Twitter handle to include.)
  2. If you’re on Facebook, follow candidates’ Facebook pages and comment on posts that can be connected to the risks of rising seas (property development, community protection, etc.), or create your own Facebook post highlighting the risks to your congressional district and share it.
  3. Attend a candidate forum or event. Ask candidates about their plans to address sea level rise and climate change. Cite the facts about homes in your district that are at risk of chronic flooding and ask candidates how they will support your community in efforts to build resilience to flooding. Because this problem will not be limited just to your community, ask about candidates’ plans to advocate for reductions in global warming emissions at the federal level, knowing that nationwide more than 80 percent of the homes at risk of chronic inundation this century could potentially avoid such a fate if we were to rapidly reduce emissions and limit future warming. You can also email candidates directly. The official web sites for most candidates includes “Contact Us” information, which typically provides an email form, address, or other way to write directly to the candidate.
  4. Write a letter to the editor for your local paper. Candidates monitor local news sources, so writing a letter to the editor (LTE) can be a great way to let them know about the issues that are important to you and your community, including rising seas. And including specific statistics about homes at risk of chronic inundation can help your LTE pack an extra punch and make it more likely to be published. Papers don’t publish every LTE they receive, but your chances are better if you’re writing one in response to an article the paper already published. You do have to be quick in your response–you don’t want days to go by between the original article and your LTE. But the good news is that LTEs are usually required to be 200 words or less, or 1 to 2 paragraphs, so the writing usually goes pretty quickly. Check with your paper about its specific requirements when it comes to submitting LTEs.

We hope that you find this new tool useful and look forward to hearing how you’re using it!

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  • Stephen Colaco

    I refer to the letter (Nature) from David J Miller et al regarding the Ice loss from the East Antarctic Ice sheet during the late Pleistocene Interglacials 125000 years ago, with Global temperatures similar to today, and sea levels 6 – 9 meters higher.

    Furthermore, Royce and Lam of Princeton Univ. (Physics) paper on “the Earth’s Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity and Thermal Inertia suggest a thermal time constant for Earth of 32 years. The implication being that in around 30 years, sea levels may be 4 – 6 meters higher. Would appreciate comments.