Not If, But When
“Not If, But When” is a photographic survey of vulnerable parts of various metropolitan areas in the United States that, without intervention, face flooding from rising sea levels due to anthropogenic climate change. Locations are based on forecasts provided by Climate Central’s Surging Seas project, created using data published in 2015 by the National Academy of Sciences.
The scenario assumes that the Paris Agreement target of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) or less of warming above pre-industrial levels is met, which would correspond to a 4.7 meter (15.4 foot) rise in sea level by the year 2200. By one estimate, a rise of just 3 meters (10 feet) would inundate 28,800 square miles of U.S. coastal land and displace 12.3 million residents.
Another estimate pegs total U.S. economic losses resulting from a 1.8 meter (6 foot) rise at close to $1 trillion. A 2016 report by the United Nations Environment Programme suggests that current pledges may not be enough to reach the Paris Agreement target. In 2017, the world’s No. 2 carbon dioxide emitter, the U.S., announced its intention to withdraw from the Agreement entirely.