Climate change bound to wreak havoc in coastal communities

By Lindsey Catlett

Lenape High

As climate change causes sea levels to rise across the globe, some coastal communities are dealing with extreme flooding. 

This flooding caused by extreme weather affects the infrastructure of these communities, Tedesco said. “Houses, roads, fire stations, schools. As infrastructure pipelines, all kinds of things are being floated so that makes it, more difficult and more expensive,” The increased flooding can have a financial toll on local business owners and homeowners.  It can also take a negative toll on public works such as fire stations and schools.  Flood insurance is essential to many business owners living in the coastal communities of Cape May county.  

In Cape May, N.J., extreme weather and rising sea levels have brought more street flooding to the city, said  Lenore Tedesco, executive director of the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, N.J.

Tedesco said flooding has been “exacerbated” due to the changes in weather caused by climate change.,

  “What we’re starting to see is street flooding and what they call “fair-weather” flooding,” which is when high tides bring water into the streets.  “We also have to worry about rainfall totals… with rainfall amounts not keeping up or changing.” 

Waves crash against a stone jetty at St. Mary’s By the Sea in Cape May, N.J.. At Cape May and other U.S. costal areas, rising sea levels are bound to create extreme flooding in the next 28 years, according to a recent scientific study. (Inquirer Staff) 

Flooding is not only a problem for the Jersey Shore. A 2020 study found that “52% of the global population and 46% of global assets are at risk of flooding by 2100.”

Ebru Kirezci, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, who led the research, said her study looked at how climate change caused by high-end CO2 emissions affects the world — and more specifically,  coastal communities.  In the study, Kirezci’s team “identified “global “hotspots” — which were coastal communities — where there was projected to be a significant change in episodic coastal flooding,.” which is flooding that happens at loosely connected times.  

“Climate change-induced sea-level rise will exacerbate the extreme sea levels and their impacts without future adaptation,” said Kirezci

As for the future of coastal communities, researchers say there’s no guarantee whether they’ll exist in the next century. 

A serene, shell-packed shoreline at Cape May, N.J., could be greatly altered in years to come due to global warming.

The good news, Dr. Kirezci said, is there is a solution.

 “In order to prevent the adverse effects of climate change and sea-level rise, developing and tailoring adaptation strategies is necessary depending on the coastal hazard levels and the necessities of coastal communities.”

  The government needs to take action in developing these adaptation strategies, she said, or the changes in flooding due to climate change will happen more rapidly.

Outside of government action, the average person can protest, sign petitions, and write letters to their elected leaders to push them to make changes to halt the effects of climate change.

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