REPORT: Texas coastal communities face climate change-caused flooding


Highlights

The Union of Concerned Scientists looked at the coastal regions of every state except Alaska and Hawaii.

The report concludes that coastal East Texas faces increased flooding by midcentury.

Large swaths of the East Texas coast could face chronic flooding by the end of the century, or even earlier if worst-case carbon emission scenarios come to pass, according to a report released Wednesday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The report concludes that even under optimistic carbon-reduction estimates, nearly one-third of the Bolivar Peninsula near Galveston will face serious flooding an average of every other week by 2060, and more than half the peninsula will be subject to such chronic flooding by 2100. Under the worst scenario, a quarter of Galveston would face chronic flooding — the kind that makes an area uninhabitable — by 2045, and almost all of that community will be flooded every other week by the end of the century.

Port Aransas, Sabine Pass and Brazosport are among the other communities that would face chronic flooding in nearly all corners under that worst-case scenario.

RELATED: Scientists say massive iceberg has broken off in Antarctica

The peer-reviewed report, published in the journal Elementa, studied the entire coastline of every state except Alaska and Hawaii. The researchers looked for communities “that will experience flooding so extensive and disruptive that it will require either expensive investments … or residents and businesses to prepare to abandon areas they call home.”

“In Texas … bigger cities and industrial centers like Galveston and Sabine Pass become chronically inundated by mid-century” under the scenarios laid out in the report, Kristy Dahl, a report author and climate scientist, said in a statement.

Rising sea levels are already distressing Galveston residents. State climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday but has said rising sea levels could mean significantly larger storm surges along the Texas coast. Another study released last month warning of the looming threat of rising sea levels has re-invigorated state officials’ push for a Dutch-style “Ike Dike” to help protect Galveston from rising sea levels.

The Union of Concerned Scientists is a U.S.-based science advocacy nonprofit established in 1969. It has lately been a vocal critic of President Donald Trump, contending his administration has undermined science on a basic level by actions such as “editing Department of Energy websites to strip references to climate change, (downplaying) impacts of fossil fuels and (scaling) back benefits of clean energy.”

The union’s report calls on the president to reverse course and have the United States rejoin the Paris Agreement, a nonbinding pact to reduce carbon emissions that 195 countries have signed. The Trump administration contends the agreement would have ceded American sovereignty to the detriment of the nation’s economy.

Most of the at-risk communities identified by the union are along the Jersey Shore, North Carolina’s Pamlico Sound, southern Louisiana and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Such communities have two options, according to the report: retreat from the flood-prone areas or employ such potentially expensive countermeasures as elevating houses, building sea walls and using large-scale pumping systems.

STAY ON TOP OF THE NEWS: Click here to sign up for our Breaking News emails

Major Texas cities wouldn’t see chronic flooding, according to the report, though New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles would be among the big cities hit by flooding under the worst-case scenario. More than 90 U.S. communities are already dealing with chronic flooding caused by climate change, according to the report. It concludes that number could jump to 170 in 20 years and 670 by 2100 under its worst-case scenario.

The worst-case scenario assumes carbon emissions continue rising through 2100 and that melting ice raises seas about 6.5 feet. The middle-of-the-road scenario assumes emissions peak around midcentury and seas rise about 4 feet. The most optimistic of the three scenarios assumes emissions drop dramatically and little ice is lost — basically the conditions the report authors say the Paris Agreement was designed to achieve.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Lifestyle

Kids who lose a father to death, divorce, jail feel it in their DNA, new study finds
Kids who lose a father to death, divorce, jail feel it in their DNA, new study finds

A new study looked at the saliva of 2,420 children enrolled in the federally funded Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Researchers wondered: Would it matter if children did not have a father actively involved in their lives because of death, prison or divorce? Father’s matter, as new study points out. The...
Summer’s last splash: Wash away the dog days at these area water parks
Summer’s last splash: Wash away the dog days at these area water parks

It’s hot. Triple-digit hot. Burn your bare feet on the sidewalk hot. And it’s starting to feel like it may never end. Whether this is your first Central Texas summer or your 40th, there’s no denying that finding new ways to beat the heat by the time late July and August roll around can be a challenge. Here’s the good news: The...
Raising quintuplets? What another Austin-area mom can tell the Hodges family
Raising quintuplets? What another Austin-area mom can tell the Hodges family

Sunday, we wrote about the last Hodges quintuplet leaving Seton Medical Center after being born on March 24.  Liz and Daniel Hodges headed home with daughter Teagan and sons Connell, Liam, Nolan and Dillon. The quintuplets join 2-year-old big brother Rowan at home. Daniel and Liz Hodges, of Temple, along with their 2-year-old...
A dip in a secluded Hill Country swimming hole makes everything right
A dip in a secluded Hill Country swimming hole makes everything right

I’ve been spending every spare hour lately writing. When I’m not working here at the Austin American-Statesman, I’m chipping away at a book I’m writing about the conservationist J. David Bamberger. A few weeks ago, I took a week off from the Statesman and put myself in (almost) solitary confinement out at Bamberger&rsquo...
See what these preschoolers look like 70 years later
See what these preschoolers look like 70 years later

The tiny tots peer tentatively over a stairway railing. Some appear bewildered. Others look distracted or fascinated or bored. Their teacher, blinking behind studious eyeglasses, stands behind them. She smiles. Perhaps she is proud of her brood at the experimental University Nursery School. Maybe she will just be glad when this Christmas 1948 photo...
More Stories