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Climate crisis to triple flooding threat for low-income US homes by 2050

San Francisco

In the November 2020 edition of The PIN magazine, an article highlighted that the current disasters could be the future that scientists have been warning us about. Indeed, this could be it, but wait! This is not all the future holds for us. If we don’t take swift action to reduce carbon emissions and other environmental pollution forms, it could worsen. True to that, recent reports continue to give more hints. And to make it even worse, the climate crisis could dawn on American households, especially low-income households.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters at the beginning of December 2020 reveals that the quantity of affordable housing in the US prone to the effects of coastal flooding will surge three times by 2050. This new study is a further sign of the inclining hardships experienced by low-income US households amid the ongoing climate crisis. According to the study by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based science organization, affordable housing in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California is at risk of damage and destruction from flooding caused by the worsening storms and high tides triggered by rising sea levels.

Currently, the number of affordable housing units in the US at risk of coastal flooding is 7,668. However, this number is set to skyrocket to 25,000 units over the next 30 years if the ongoing global warming isn’t drastically lowered. The study further reveals that a similar number of housing units is still at the risk of destruction by coastal floods even if huge greenhouse emissions are cut since there is a lot of heating already locked up from the decades of emissions from fossil fuel use.

“Cutting emissions makes a huge, life-or-death difference in the second half of the century but there will be a growing need to build resilience and adapt no matter what we do now,” the chief executive and chief scientist of Climate Central, Benjamin Strauss, said.

2020 was termed as the most active year that recorded several huge Atlantic storms. Last year also revealed that some of the flooding events could be dramatic. This is because they’re caused by hurricanes, which scientists termed as growing more powerful and slow-moving over dry land as the heating of the oceans and the atmosphere continues.

Impacts of coastal flooding.

These recurring coastal flooding events leave no good, only trails of damage and destruction in homes. However, most flooding events are attritional, causing flooded streets and basements after a heavy downpour or high tides. This means that the people in low-income coastal areas have to move vehicles and electrical appliances to prevent them from being soaked or getting mold that can grow on moist home surfaces.

However, the US low-income households are not the only ones at the risk of destruction by the coastal flooding events. Higher-income coastal households also face risks. However, researchers point out that higher incomer households can recover more quickly compared to people in low-income households, which are also located in low-lying clustered areas near back bays and channels prone to flooding.

“We don’t train our attention on these neighborhoods but many of them are already suffering significantly from these problems,” Strauss said. “Low-income people don’t have the resources to respond or recover from these increasing floods. The impact upon their lives is far more severe than someone with a second home or a lot of disposable income.”

Elsewhere, a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Andrea Dutton (not involved in the study), stated that the study plays a significant role in outlining the personal and economic effects of flooding on low-income households.

“Wealthy communities have the resources to undertake projects to adapt to sea-level rise and build new infrastructure,” Dutton said. “Furthermore, some of that infrastructure may in fact make the impacts of sea-level rise even worse for adjacent communities. For example, a sea wall that protects one community will just push even more water into the adjacent areas that cannot afford to build a sea wall.”

The best option in such a case is to adapt to the rising sea levels and establish measures that will protect all communities from the impacts of the coastal flooding events. Lastly, we should start the journey to cut carbon emissions now to save the little we can for ourselves and future generations.

Work cited.



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