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Increasing pace of sea level rise threatens U.S. coastal cities with more flooding

That beachfront property is more at risk of flooding from climate change than previously thought.

A new study predicts that sea levels will likely rise by as much as one foot over the next thirty years -- faster than they had over the past 100 years -- and posing a significant threat to cities like Miami and New York.

The report, released earlier this week, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration points to more coastal flooding and more intense tidal and storm surges from increasingly powerful weather systems (also caused by climate change).

“Sea levels are continuing to rise at a very alarming rate,” Bill Nelson, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters quoted by Bloomberg. “And it’s endangering communities around the world.”

Boston, Miami, and New York are already experiencing tidal flooding and some 8 million homes around the country are at risk from storm surges -- with projected reconstruction costs for these buildings reaching as high as $1.9 trillion, according to Bloomberg's reporting.

New Yorkers living in some of the low-lying areas on Manhattan may want to look to "Waterworld" or Florence for tips, because the NOAA report estimates that sea levels around the island could rise by 2 feet as early as 2055.

Sea levels in Manhattan could rise by 2 feet as early as 2055 or as late as 2078, depending on the impacts of climate change, according to NOAA estimates. About 7,895 people in Manhattan live in low-lying areas that would flood with less than 2 feet of sea level rise.

“This new data on sea rise is the latest reconfirmation that our climate crisis – as the President has said – is blinking ‘code red’,” White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said in a statement, quoted by Bloomberg. “We must redouble our efforts to cut the greenhouse gases that cause climate change while, at the same time, help our coastal communities become more resilient in the face of rising seas.”

Some new businesses are trying to come up with ways to protect cities from rising seas and flooding from storm surges and rising tides.

Opti, an infrastructure developer creates smart systems to manage storm waters and flood waters through networked drainage pools and existing water infrastructure.

"We felt like it had the potential to have a really tremendous positive impact on resilience and pollution associated with storms," Jeff Possick, managing director at MissionPoint Partners, told CNN in a 2017 profile of Opti.

Coral reefs represent a natural barrier to flooding and ocean tidal and storm surges and they've been dying off at an alarming rate thanks to -- you guessed it -- climate change.

Writing in the online journal The Conversation, the researcher Michael Beck from the University of California, Santa Cruz put a price tag on the amount of damage to coastal communities coral reefs prevent.

"This report shows that coral reefs in U.S. waters, from Florida and the Caribbean to Hawaii and Guam, provide our country with more than US$1.8 billion dollars in flood protection benefits every year," Beck wrote. "They reduce direct flood damages to public and private property worth more than $800 million annually, and help avert other costs to lives and livelihoods worth an additional $1 billion. Rigorously valuing reef benefits in this way is the first step toward mobilizing resources to protect them."

Businesses and non profit initiatives are now cropping up to address the die-off and prevent damage. The Miami-based startup The Addition Company intends to use 3D printed structures to replace lost coral. And Israel's ECOncrete has a special kind of construction material that can mimic ocean habitats to make a more ecologically sound seawall protection.

Meanwhile, Urchincomics and Marauder Robotics are trying to manage the sea urchin populations that devastate existing coral ecosystems.

And Beck thinks that protecting, rebuilding and expanding natural coral ecosystems is a much more valuable prevention method than creating manmade ocean defenses.

"Manmade defenses, such as sea walls, can damage adjoining habitats and harm species that rely on them. In contrast, healthy reefs enhance their surroundings by protecting shorelines and supporting fisheries and recreation, from diving to surfing," Beck wrote in The Conversation. "The flood protection benefits that reefs provide across the U.S. are similar to those in more than 60 other nations. As I estimated with colleagues in a separate study, the global cost of storm damage to the world’s coastlines would double without reefs."

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