The water is rising. Tidal flooding in coastal communities is getting worse -- even on sunny days with no rain. In the past two decades, tidal flooding has increased by 190% in the southeastern U.S. and 140% in the Northeast, according to a recent report by NOAA.
The U.S. is facing more than $400 billion in costs in the next few years to defend coastal communities from this inevitable sea-level rise -- some 50,000 miles of seawalls and other coastal barriers in 22 states, according to a study by the Center for Climate Integrity.
Who's going to pay for all that?
Currently, taxpayers and property owners in local communities are the ones on the hook for 100% of climate adaptation costs, according to the report "High Tide Tax, the Price to Protect Coastal Communities from Rising Seas," by the Center for Climate Integrity, which seeks to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for some of the escalating costs of adapting to climate change.
If local communities must pay, that means they will have to raise taxes and make cuts to existing public services such as schools, emergency services, and hospitals. The other option is flooded roads, businesses, and homes, damage to infrastructure and ultimately abandonment of affected properties and communities, resulting in sinking property values and displaced residents, all in the next 20 years, according to the CCI report, which breaks down the costs of seawalls for the states, counties and cities that will be hit the hardest.
In the list of cities most affected, New Yorkers would pay about $231 each to build 171 miles of seawalls. But in smaller places like Galveston, Texas, CCI estimates a cost to taxpayers of over $21,000 per person, and in one small North Carolina town the estimated cost for seawalls is a whopping $1.76 million per person.
Based on the report by the Center for Climate Integrity, these are the U.S. cities that will be hit hardest by rising seas, and the estimated costs to build protective seawalls.