Even if the world’s carbon emissions were cut dramatically today, it’s still likely that south Florida and New Orleans will eventually end up underwater. That’s the take-home message from a new study out of Princeton University, which also notes America is set to lose a state-sized piece of land if carbon emissions continue unchecked.


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“It’s hard to imagine how south Florida and New Orleans can survive in the long run,” Princeton team member Benjamin Strauss told New Scientist. Strauss teamed up with Anders Levermann of Potsdam Institute in Germany to update Levermann’s 2013 study that indicated sea levels will rise about 2.3 meters for every 1 degree Celsius over the next 2,000 years. Their new study looks at what this figure means for the United States, with half the proposed scenarios assuming the West Antarctic ice sheet collapses, which recent studies say is inevitable.

If this happens, America will undoubtedly experience almost five meters of sea level rise – a number that could grow if emissions aren’t capped immediately. According to Strauss and Levermann, even a best-case scenario would see sea level rise by about two meters.

Related: Rising sea levels could submerge 1,700 U.S. cities by 2100

That scenario would require a stop to the rapid melt of the West Antarctic ice sheet. Only aggressive cuts to carbon emissions will stop the ice sheet from collapsing. And to keep sea level rise to just 2 meters, global warming needs to stay below 2 degrees Celsius.

According to New Scientist, South Florida and New Orleans won’t be the only U.S. cities doomed by this scenario. Boston, Sacramento, Norfolk, VA and Savanna GA could also head to the briny deep.

Via New Scientist

Images via Wikimedia Commons, U.S. Airforce and Metropolitan Transportation Authority of the State of New York