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Surprising images show how rising sea levels could flood U.S. cities if the world fails to cut carbon emissions

New images and research paint a grim picture of what the future could look like if the world fails to adequately tackle climate change. If the high carbon dioxide emissions continue, researchers at the nonprofit Climate Central have found that land that is home to at least 10% of the world’s population could end up at least partially underwater.

Researchers examined 50 major cities around the world to project how a range of global warming scenarios – of 1.1 to 4 degrees Celsius of warming – would impact local sea level for centuries to come. The extreme 4 degree Celsius emissions scenario is expected to result in a median sea level rise of 8.9 meters (over 21 feet) within 200 to 2,000 years. While the cities studied, most of which are located in Asia, do not defend themselves against “unprecedented levels” of exposure to the sea, the researchers found that they could face “partial to almost total losses of. the existing area “.

They also found that at least one major nation on every continent except Australia and Antarctica would face “unusually high” sea level exposure, with land hosting at least 10% and up to two-thirds of the current population falling underwater.

Small island nations, they added, could face “near total loss”.

“Some of the man-made carbon dioxide emissions will remain in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, raising temperatures and sea levels globally,” the researchers wrote. “The emission reduction policies and actions of most countries do not appear to reflect this threat in the long term, because collectively they point to a permanent widespread inundation of many developed areas.”

If world leaders meet the more ambitious goals of the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce emissions, the researchers said, however, that exposure could be cut by about half.

In August, the United Nations released a report saying the world is likely to strike 1.5 degrees Celsius of global warming in the 2030s, and warning of the growing risk of “extreme events unprecedented on the record”. The Paris Agreement, which has been reached by more than 190 countries, aims to limit warming to that amount, but according to a recent report, most countries are not on track to achieve this.

Climate Central has displayed the latest research in a series of startling images that visualize the impact of potential sea level rise on various cities and landmarks. While it takes centuries for these scenarios to unfold, researchers warn that what happens in the next few decades will determine what the world faces.

Here’s what several well-known places might look like, according to research from Climate Central.

Houston Texas Space Center

Space Center Houston, the iconic center for science and space exploration in Texas, faces a bleak future due to rising sea levels, researchers are projecting. The center, located a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico, is expected to experience flooding even as the world sharply cuts carbon pollution and keeps global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. If the Earth reaches a warming of 4 degrees Celsius, it will be completely submerged in water, with most of the time just the top of the main building remaining above the sea.

Iolani Palace in Honolulu, Hawaii

Honolulu’s Iolani Palace was completed in 1882 and became the official residence of the Hawaiian monarchs. Today the palace serves as the state capitol. But the palace and much of its surroundings will be inundated even if the world manages to keep global warming at no more than 2 degrees Celsius, the researchers predict. If global warming reaches 4 degrees Celsius, they project that almost half of the palate will be underwater.

Boston Common in Massachusetts

The oldest park in the United States – a site that has been visited by George Washington, John Adams, Charles Lindbergh, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Pope John Paul II – could be covered with water if carbon pollution is not controlled and the world is hitting 4 degrees Celsius of global warming, the researchers predict.

Santa Monica Pier in California

The historic pier that has been around since the early 1900s and served as a beloved amusement park site for generations is likely to become an island, researchers say. At 1.1 degrees Celsius of global warming, which is “inevitable at this point,” the researchers said, sea level rise is expected to exceed the beach below the pier and start to encroach on the city.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Independence Hall, where the United States’ Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776 and the Constitution was drawn up 11 years later, may be surrounded by water for centuries to come. Researchers predict that if carbon pollution is left unchecked and the Earth reaches 4 degrees Celsius of global warming, the sea will totally flood this historic site.

The Statue of Liberty, New York

The Statue of Liberty, which has served as a symbolic beacon of hope for generations of immigrants, could be threatened by rising sea levels. Even if the world succeeds in drastically reducing carbon pollution, researchers predict that it will be too late for Liberty Island to avoid major flooding. If carbon pollution is left unchecked, the island could end up almost entirely underwater.