The United States’ 2014 National Climate Assessment is out, and it’s readily available for us all to countdown our demise to. Yep, it’s somber for everyone. A team of more than 300 experts, guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee, produced the report, which was, in turn, extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.
And it’s possibly the most bleak for us coastal dwellers. With 94,000 miles of coastline and more than $1 trillion of coastal infrastrucure — specifically water and energy infrastructure, among other assets of national importance such as ports, tourism, and fishing sites — ignoring or avoiding the problem is no longer an option. The dangerous prospect for sea level rise, storm surge, erosion, flooding, and related hazards continues to pose serious threats.
The key messages from the Coasts region:
Coastal Lifelines at Risk – “Coastal lifelines, such as water supply and energy infrastructure and evacuation routes, are increasingly vulnerable to higher sea levels and storm surges, inland flooding, erosion, and other climate-related changes.”
Economic Disruption – “Nationally important assets, such as ports, tourism, and fishing sites, in already-vulnerable coastal locations, are increasingly exposed to sea level rise and related hazards. This threatens to disrupt economic activity within coastal areas and the regions they serve and results in significant costs from protecting or moving these assets.”
Uneven Social Vulnerability – “Socioeconomic disparities create uneven exposures and sensitivities to growing coastal risks and limit adaptation options for some coastal communities, resulting in the displacement of the most vulnerable people from coastal areas.”
Vulnerable Eco Systems – “Coastal ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change because many have already been dramatically altered by human stresses; climate change will result in further reduction or loss of the services that these ecosystems provide, including potentially irreversible impacts.”
The State of Coastal Adaptation – “Leaders and residents of coastal regions are increasingly aware of the high vulnerability of coasts to climate change and are developing plans to prepare for potential impacts on citizens, businesses, and environmental assets. Significant institutional, political, social, and economic obstacles to implementing adaptation actions remain.”
Coincidentally, there is a frightening site where you’re able to see any address under water, which is basically a glimpse into the future if we continue down this path. And by visiting the online assessment, you’re able to see details on any region, from Northeast and Southwest to the Great Plains and even Alaska or Hawaii, as well as an overview, trends, and other relevant findings.
Addressing the issues of trash making our beaches literal landfills is a positive short-term solution — if it can even be considered a solution — but we need to think bigger picture, otherwise those littered beaches are going to be least of our problems.
Let’s get it right, people. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. Let’s protect what’s ours.