GALVESTON — If air pollution is not controlled, Galveston could be one of the first cities in the United States to go underwater, according to a new study released by a nonprofit climate science research group.
In a paper published Thursday in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, researcher Benjamin Strauss concludes that carbon pollution to date has already “locked in” a 4-foot rise over current sea levels. Those numbers could increase to 23 feet of sea level rise if global climate emissions continue to increase, Strauss writes.
What is unclear is how long it would be until such a rise occurred, but it would take hundreds of years.
“Middle-of-the-road projections point to (sea level rise) rates in the vicinity of 5 feet per century by 2100,” Strauss writes in an analysis of the piece of the journal study on the Climate Central website.
Such rates would be fast enough to “threaten the heritage, and very existence, of coastal communities everywhere.”
Even a 4-foot rise in sea levels is enough to submerge more than half the population of 316 coastal towns and cities in the United States, according to the study.
An interactive tool on Climate Central’s website, which illustrates which cities around the country are threatened by rising water, indicates that 18 Texas cities are already locked into losing 25 percent of their currently populated land sometime in the future.
Among those 18 cities are Bayou Vista, Bolivar Peninsula, Galveston, Jamaica Beach and Tiki Island.
If current trends continue, Galveston could be locked in to losing 50 percent of its land by 2040 and 100 percent of its land by 2050.
Strauss writes that it would take a massive program to remove carbon from the atmosphere and a halt and reduction to global emissions, to substantially reduce the chance of higher impacts by the end of the 21st century.