Sea Level Rise Might Cost the World $14 Trillion a Year by 2100

We need to take prompt action to keep global temperatures below the warming limit set by the United Nations. If we don’t, a new study claims that by 2100 the world could pay $14 trillion every year mitigating flooding impacts.

In 2010, the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change determined that it will be necessary to keep global average warming to below 2°C, or 3.6°F, above pre-industrial levels. And the consequences of failing to meet these goals are likely to be significant.

When global temperatures increase, sea levels rise too. That’s due to the melting of glaciers and ice sheets, as well as thermal ocean water expansion. More than 600 million people live in low-elevation coastal areas, defined as being less than 10 meters above sea level.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

“These extreme sea levels will have a negative effect on the economies of developing coastal nations, and the habitability of low-lying coastlines,” Dr. Svetlana Jevrejeva of the UK National Oceanographic Centre, explained in a statement.

“Small, low-lying island nations such as the Maldives will be very easily affected, and the pressures on their natural resources and environmental will become even greater,” she added.

It’s not just poorer, low-lying countries that will feel the effect. More developed nations like China, with its long coastline, large coastal population and rapidly growing GDP, will foot a tremendous amount of this cost. Not unexpectedly, researchers say, large cities will be better protected because of their more substantial infrastructure and assets.

None of this has to happen, of course. If the world adheres to the Paris Climate Agreement, we could save ourselves $20 trillion and be less likely to break the 2°C warming limit. Meeting a target that’s even stricter than the 2°C limit would save us even more.

And, yes, we’re talking about that Paris Agreement President Trump walked away from in 2017, despite the participation of 194 other countries around the world.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

Photo credit: Thinkstock

“Based on the published estimates, our evidence would suggest that the benefits of meeting the more stringent targets vastly outweigh the costs,” Stanford University researcher Marshall Burke told the Los Angeles Times.

Many feel that the UN 2°C goal isn’t going to be enough to keep us safe from severe climate impacts like flooding. As long ago as 2005, climate scientist James Hansen said that the 2°C threshold “cannot be considered a responsible target.” He wants to see a unified effort to reach 1°C instead.

In fact, researchers say that that 71 percent of countries — that’s 90 percent of the world’s population — would be much better off economically if global temperature increase can be held to 1.5°C.

Instead, though, here we are, worrying about that $14 trillion the world will have to find — every year — to offset the damage and property loss attributable to climate change. That doesn’t even include the negative ecosystem effects, the species loss and all the other ways climate change will slowly eat away at the world we know.

Despite these concerns, the United States voluntarily walked away from the Paris Climate Agreement. We’re not participating. Instead, we’re focusing on propping up the fossil fuel industry rather than encouraging the growth of renewable energy.

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40 comments

David C
David C3 days ago

that's okay, tRumpenstein will just build another wall

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Dot A
Dot A4 days ago

- by go under, it is intended to mean, financially, which hurts a person's well being in most every practical sense of the word.

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Dot A
Dot A4 days ago

Error prone or not, there will be a large percentage of real estate underwater, and the humans involved will go under, as well.

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Leanne K
Leanne K5 days ago

Shelley W I agree, we must seriously cut our numbers ( and Im not at all religious so free contraception and terminations and a much bigger push for men to be responsible. Yeah right, well back to contraceptives and abortions... ) and yes, China and India have extreme numbers but for way too long us western nations and our air quality regulations saw us deliberately use China and India to deal with our waste. Oh we knew, we could have started living greener but we preferred the pretense. Its biting us on the a$$ now

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Leanne K
Leanne K5 days ago

Not Rhode islanders if they win their lawsuit

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld8 days ago

Robert F.,
You do realize that droughts have been on the decrease in the U.S. over the past century? Predictions are for wetting, not drier conditions, such that flood mitigation is likely to become the bigger issue.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld8 days ago

The study's estimates are based on a 3-ft sea level rise. Considering that sea level has been rising at a fairly constant 3mm/yr for the past half century or so, this represents a three-fold increase over recent observations. The study also states that the added costs would be incurred if no additional adaptions for sea level rise are implemented. Who would not make adaptations, if the sea level was rising for 80 years? Overall, this report is error-prone and utterly meaningless.

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Shelley w
Shelley w9 days ago

The Paris Climate Agreement lets the largest and worst offenders for creating green house gases off the hook like China, India and many others. We should be examining humane ways to reduce our population (e.g. education). The more people, the more pollution, waste, intensive farming etc.

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Mark Donner
Mark D9 days ago

Alea C: 10 billion tons but of marine ice collapsed into the ocean. That by itself didn't contribute to sea level rise, but those ice shelves are the only thing holding back Greenland's land ice. Land ice WILL raise the oceans. 10 billion tons is small compared to what Greenland is losing every year- around 280 billion tons. And even that is small compared to the potential sea level rise from Antarctica. When the Antarctic Thwaite ice shelf collapses all hell will break loose.

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Mark Donner
Mark D9 days ago

It's not only Trump and his circle of criminals. Trump is pure unadulterated evil. But most of humanity will happily go to their own suicides and destroy all life in the process. It's the human condition. The Earth should never have experienced humans.

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