Climate change could literally sink more than 1,700 U.S. cities and towns.
A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests more than 1,700 urban areas -- including New York and Miami -- could find themselves below sea level before this century is out.
Without a sharp and immediate curb in greenhouse gas emissions, the study notes, at least 80 of those cities could be submerged within the next decade.
Even then, many municipalities won't escape the growing tide of global warming, The Guardian reports.
“Even if we could just stop global emissions tomorrow on a dime, Fort Lauderdale, Miami Gardens, Hoboken, New Jersey will be under sea level,” study author and Climate Central researcher Benjamin Strauss said.
"Hundreds of American cities are already locked into watery futures and we are growing that group very rapidly," Strauss said. "We are locking in hundreds more as we continue to emit carbon into the atmosphere."
By locked in, Strauss means the cities will have crossed a point of no return — when global temperatures can no longer be checked. Even a state of zero emission would take too long to actually cool the existing climate system, essentially swallowing cities that are already on the brink.
As Jeff Kluger writes for Time magazine, "The cause, of course, is climate change and ice melt, but for all the urgent talk about how we need to get that problem under control — and we do — a certain amount of additional warming and sea-level rise is now baked into the system."
The Climate Central analysis also determined those emissions cuts would have to be considerably deeper than those proposed by U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year.
"Americans across the country are already paying the price of inaction,” Obama told reporters in January.
Lauded as ambitious by observers, Obama's plan includes investing heavily in renewable energy technology as well as bolstering municipal defenses against increasingly unpredictable and powerful storms.
If Benjamin Strauss' analysis holds true, however, it wouldn't be enough. In 1,700 cities, the paper concludes, a full quarter of the population would find itself living below the high-water mark by 2100.
And many of them could be staring into the face of climate change well before then.
“Pretty much everywhere it seems you are going to be under water unless you build a massive system of dykes and levees,” Strauss wrote in his analysis.
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