If parading during Mardi Gras or sunning on South Beach are on your travel to-do list, you may want to speed things up. A new scientific study predicts that New Orleans and Miami will be submerged by ocean in coming years — no matter what humans do to counteract climate change. The study identifies “lock-in dates beyond which the cumulative effects of carbon emissions likely commit them to long-term sea-level rise that could submerge land under more than half of the city’s population" — in other words, the dates by which we'll have screwed up the climate so badly, there's no reversing it. Miami's and New Orleans' dates are already behind us. Scientists including Benjamin Strauss, Ph.D., the executive director of the climate news and research nonprofit Climate Central, published the alarming finding that the two cities are on a one-way path toward widespread flooding in a peer-reviewed October 12 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences.
Climate Central also produced a handy, interactive, in parts terrifying map of the crisis. Enter a location in the United States, and see what will happen there depending on the degree of carbon cuts we're able to make. Search New Orleans or Miami, and you'll see something very upsetting: unsalvageable land. If we don't reduce our carbon emissions at all through 2100, areas in blue will go underwater. The areas in gray and white are the ones we can save. In every scenario, New Orleans is blue throughout. Miami Beach is, too.
Scientists do not know when the flooding will occur, just that it will. They also know that where this flooding can be stopped, it should. The bad news about two of our favorite Southern party cities — which, much more important, are also home to hundreds of thousands of people — should encourage us to work even harder to forestall similar events in other places around the country, and in the world. “Our actions today determine sea-level rise tomorrow,” Strauss said in a press release. “We can act, and preserve much more of America’s heritage, or we can delay, and leave a legacy of irreversible rising seas that threaten to destroy some of our nation’s most iconic cities and landmarks.”
If we keep destroying the planet at the rate we are right now, we're looking at threats like a 14-to-33-foot sea-level rise that would endanger upward of 30 million Americans nationwide, according to the research. Climate Central's map focuses on the United States, but the organization is very aware that this country is far from the only one in danger. Global warming and sea-level rise are worldwide issues that need to be addressed this very minute, because they affect all of us.