Science
7:01 am
Tue April 16, 2013

2 Million Floridians Threatened By Sea Level Rise, But New Study Says It Can Be Slowed

If sea level rise continues unabated, sections of South Florida -- and Miami in particular -- will be under water in a matter of decades. But a new study suggests that swift reductions in "short-lived climate pollutants" and carbon dioxide levels could help to slow the rise.  

Parts of Miami will be under water if sea level rise projections are correct.
Credit maxstrz / Flickr Creative Commons

The study, "Mitigation of Short-Lived Climate Pollutants Slows Sea-Level Rise," was published this month in Nature Climate Change. It concludes that reducing emissions of four "short-lived climate pollutants" (SLCP) could slow a current "warming trend by 50 percent." Slowing the trend would in turn slow the ice sheet melt and reduce the rate of sea level rise, it says.

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The four SLCPs under consideration are methane, tropospheric ozone, hydrofluorocarbons and black carbon. Cutting carbon dioxide levels remains a high priority, but report analysis by Climate Change indicates "SLCP mitigation acts faster than carbon dioxide mitigation."

Timeliness matters, too: "Delaying SLCP mitigation until 2040 will decrease the impact of carbon dioxide and SLCP mitigation on sea level rise by a third, and will make it difficult if not impossible to keep warming under two degrees Celsius by end of century," Climate Change reports.

Using the findings from this new report, coastal topography charts, and various global sea level rise scenarios, Climate Change created a list of coastal states that would benefit from SLCP and carbon dioxide mitigation. No huge surprise: Florida tops the list.  

According to their calculations, more than 1.7 million Florida residents would benefit from SLCP-only mitigation while more than half a million would benefit from carbon dioxide-only mitigation. A combined effort to tackle both groups of emissions would benefit more than 2 million people.

As Climate Change says "Florida has by far the greatest population at risk from sea level rise, and thus derives most of the benefit of any action to slow it." Business Spectator reports that in Florida 2.1 million people are "projected to live below sea level" by 2100 "if greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced."

These findings echo the sentiments of Florida conservationalists like the Sierra Club's Jonathan Ullman, who calls sea level rise "one of the most horrific manifestations" of climate change. 

"We as a community have the most to lose so we should be the spokesmen for the world," Ullman said of sea level rise and its projected impact on coastal cities and the Everglades. "Miami will be cut down in its prime if we don't take action."

Read the full Climate Change article here. View maps that show how sea level rise could impact Miami-Dade County, here.