The Bad News: Baltimore Will Be Partly Underwater; The Good News: Not as Much as Boston

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The New York Times’ interpretation of Baltimore’s new coastline, if sea levels rise 25 feet. Everything light blue is underwater.

These days, Baltimore’s flooded streets are usually the fault of broken water mains and disintegrating infrastructure. But according to yesterday’s New York Times, if sea levels keep rising the way they have been, future Baltimoreans can expect a lot more water a lot closer to home. The only silver lining? At least we we’ll be better off than Miami and Norfolk, which will be entirely underwater.

“Is This the End?,” the Times headline asks ominously. We shouldn’t think of Sandy as a once-in-a-lifetime storm, argues James Atlas; instead, we should abandon our “willed ignorance,” stop building skyscrapers in likely-to-flood areas, and start looking squarely at the possibility of a genuinely frightening future.

In Baltimore’s case, that would look like a gradual progression of encroaching waters over the next several centuries. In 100 to 300 years, according to the Times, we can expect a 5-foot rise in sea levels, which would mean that land around the Patapsco River inlets would flood. But by the time sea levels rise 25 feet (and based on historical climate change levels, this is not wild speculation), a full 12 percent of the city would be flooded:  pretty much all of downtown, as well as waterfront areas like Locust Point and Dundalk. Meanwhile, down in Charleston, the coast would move 10 miles inland and 80 percent of that city would be submerged; likewise 37 percent of Boston, 39 percent of New York City, and 100 percent of New Orleans, Atlantic City, Norfolk, and Miami Beach. (Check out the interactive infographic here.) Scary stuff.

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