This Is How Much Sea-Level Rise in These Cities Will Cost Taxpayers

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.

Photo: Shutterstock

1. Jacksonville, Fla.
1. Jacksonville, Fla.

1. Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Cost: $3.5 billion for 632 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 892,000
  • Avg. cost per person: $3,990

Photo: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

2. New York City
2. New York City

2. New York City

  • Cost: $2 billion for 171 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 8.6 million
  • Avg. cost per person: $231

Photo: Shutterstock

3. Virginia Beach, Va.
3. Virginia Beach, Va.

3. Virginia Beach, Va.

  • Cost: $1.7 billion for 255 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 452,000
  • Avg. cost per person: $3,814

Photo: Jay Yuan / Shutterstock

4. Marathon, Fla.
4. Marathon, Fla.

4. Marathon, Fla.

  • Cost: $1.5 billion for 80 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 8,877
  • Avg. cost per person: $172,260

Marathon is a small city spread out over several of the Florida Keys.

Photo: Shutterstock

5. Fire Island, N.Y.
5. Fire Island, N.Y.

5. Fire Island, N.Y.

  • Cost: $1.4 billion for 52 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 241
  • Avg. cost per person: $5.9 million

Photo: Shutterstock

6. Galveston, Texas
6. Galveston, Texas

6. Galveston, Texas

  • Cost: $1.1 billion for 133 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 50,497
  • Avg. cost per person: $21,282

Photo: Shutterstock

7. Charleston, S.C.
7. Charleston, S.C.

7. Charleston, S.C.

  • Cost: $1 billion for 194 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 134,875
  • Avg. cost per person: $7,865

Photo: Shutterstock

8. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas
8. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

8. Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

  • Cost: $967 million for 83 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 2,413
  • Avg. cost per person: $441,515

Photo: Shutterstock

9. Tampa, Fla.
9. Tampa, Fla.

9. Tampa, Fla.

  • Cost: $938 million for 64 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 385,430
  • Avg. cost per person: $2,549

Photo: Shutterstock

10. Barnstable Town, Mass.
10. Barnstable Town, Mass.

10. Barnstable Town, Mass.

  • Cost: $889 million for 63 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 44,163
  • Avg. cost per person: $20,062

Photo: Shutterstock

11. Corpus Christi, Texas
11. Corpus Christi, Texas

11. Corpus Christi, Texas

  • Cost: $861 million for 127 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 325,733
  • Avg. cost per person: $2,668

Photo: Shutterstock

12. North Key Largo, Fla.
12. North Key Largo, Fla.

12. North Key Largo, Fla.

  • Cost: $826.4 million for 55 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 1,244
  • Avg. cost per person: $619,004

Above, the Christ of the Abyss statue is located a few miles off Key Largo and is a popular diving spot. It is a casting of the original by Guido Galletti that sits in the Mediterranean Sea.

Photo: Shutterstock

13. Poquoson, Va.
13. Poquoson, Va.

13. Poquoson, Va.

  • Cost: $820.7 million for 72 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 12,000
  • Avg. cost per person: $68,262

Photo: Kjst.wm.tribe.2015/Wikipedia

14. Islamorada, Village of Islands, Fla.
14. Islamorada, Village of Islands, Fla.

14. Islamorada, Village of Islands, Fla.

  • Cost: $811.3 million for 37 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 6,544
  • Avg. cost per person: $125,044

Photo: Shutterstock

15. St. Petersburg, Fla.
15. St. Petersburg, Fla.

15. St. Petersburg, Fla.

  • Cost: $751.4 million for 63 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 263,255
  • Avg. cost per person: $2,935

Photo: Shutterstock

16. New Orleans
16. New Orleans

16. New Orleans

  • Cost: $725.1 million for 136 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 393,292
  • Avg. cost per person: $1,868

Above, flooding in central New Orleans in May, 2019. Federal, state and local governments spent more than $20 billion on levees, flood walls, gates and pumps in greater New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the New York Times reported last year, but much of the city is still below sea level.

Photo: Chris Nicotera / Shutterstock

17. North Topsail Beach, N.C.
17. North Topsail Beach, N.C.

17. North Topsail Beach, N.C.

  • Cost: $724.1 million for 56 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 1,050
  • Avg. cost per person: $682,452

Photo: Shutterstock

18. Mobile, Ala.
18. Mobile, Ala.

18. Mobile, Ala.

  • Cost: $717.7 million for 105 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 190,265
  • Avg. cost per person: $3,736

Photo: Shutterstock

19. Seattle
19. Seattle

19. Seattle

  • Cost: $716.3 million for 46 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 724,745
  • Avg. cost per person: $1,041

Photo: Shutterstock

20. Ocracoke, N.C.
20. Ocracoke, N.C.

20. Ocracoke, N.C.

  • Cost: $708 million for 54 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 948
  • Avg. cost per person: $747,000

Ocracoke is part of North Carolina's Outer Banks region.

Photo: Shutterstock

21. Dauphin Island, Ala.
21. Dauphin Island, Ala.

21. Dauphin Island, Ala.

  • Cost: $685.2 million for 31 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 1,269
  • Avg. cost per person: $542,985

Photo: Shutterstock

22. Chesapeake, Va.
22. Chesapeake, Va.

22. Chesapeake, Va.

  • Cost: $675 million for 124 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 232,977
  • Avg. cost per person: $2,867

Photo: Shutterstock

23. St. George Island, Fla.
23. St. George Island, Fla.

23. St. George Island, Fla.

  • Cost: $674.6 million for 28 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 740
  • Avg. cost per person: $911,674

Photo: Shutterstock

24. Hampton, Va.
24. Hampton, Va.

24. Hampton, Va.

  • Cost: $642.9 million for 68 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 137,436
  • Avg. cost per person: $4,719

Pictured is Fort Monroe National Monument in Hampton.

Photo: Shutterstock

25. Dames Quarter, Md.
25. Dames Quarter, Md.

25. Dames Quarter, Md.

  • Cost: $611.4 million for 53 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 162
  • Avg. cost per person: $3.9 million

Photo: Riley Roberts Road/Wikipedia

26. Texas City, Texas
26. Texas City, Texas

26. Texas City, Texas

  • Cost: $595.6 million for 45 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 47,262
  • Avg. cost per person: $12,603

Texas City is near Galveston.

Photo: BFS Man from Webster, TX, USA/Wikipedia

27. Camano, Wash.
27. Camano, Wash.

27. Camano, Wash.

  • Cost: $580.7 million for 22 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 16,595
  • Avg. cost per person: $36,320

Photo: Shutterstock

28. Norfolk, Va.
28. Norfolk, Va.

28. Norfolk, Va.

  • Cost: $574.6 million for 69 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 245,115
  • Avg. cost per person: $2,338

Pictured is "Rubber Duck," a temporary sculpture by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, in Norfolk in 2014.

Photo: Sherry V Smith / Shutterstock

29. Port Arthur, Texas
29. Port Arthur, Texas

29. Port Arthur, Texas

  • Cost: $567.7 million for 80 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 55,177
  • Avg. cost per person: $10,289

Photo: Shutterstock

30. Chincoteague, Va.
30. Chincoteague, Va.

30. Chincoteague, Va.

  • Cost: $505.6 million for 85 miles of seawalls
  • Population: 2,888
  • Avg. cost per person: $174,154

Above, Chincoteague Island is known for its wild horses and annual pony swim.

Visit ClimateCosts2040.org to see all of the rankings by state, county, city and Congressional district as well as the costs of seawalls; or to read the full report by the Center for Climate Integrity.

Photo: The Old Major / Shutterstock

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