By Sir Ronald Sanders
High-tide flooding is set to become an every-other-day affair in coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast of the US by the year 2100. It will also fatally harm the countries of the Caribbean. As the level of the sea continues to rise, conditions will be calamitous long before that 82-year period is reached. The resulting flooding will not be storm-related, it will occur simply because the level of the sea has risen above the level of land. When storms also strike, conditions will be even worse.
This 82-year projection is based on the assumption that greenhouse gas emissions, which cause global warming and sea level rise, will be curbed. But there is no evidence of that happening. Indeed, even in the much-vaunted Paris and Bonn accords on climate change, there is no legally binding agreement on nations to cut back their emissions. In the case of the US, the present Administration has back-pedalled on commitments made by the previous government and it may yet withdraw the US entirely from the understandings reached so far.
The problems caused by high-tide flooding will adversely impact the states on the east coast of the US, ranging from New York through Florida and across to Texas. But the islands of the Caribbean and mainland countries with already low-lying coasts, such as Guyana and Belize, will be affected first.
This latest cause for alarm, concerning high-tide flooding, is identified in a new report from the US National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). According to the report, high-tide flooding in the mid-Atlantic doubled from an average of three days a year in 2000 to six in 2015.
The report points out that high-tide flooding, which is today an occasional event, will occur every other day by 2100, inundating homes and businesses, including hotels. That is 182 days a year.
Of course, if there is no curbing of greenhouse gas emissions, high-tide flooding will become a happening every day, forcing businesses, homes and agricultural activity further inland. The migration of such activities away from the coast will be possible in mainland countries at great expense, disruption, loss of property, and the creation of refugees, but such inland migration will hardly be possible for the islands of the Caribbean, particularly the small ones.