Have you been thinking about leaving New York City and moving somewhere that's less expensive? You may want to consider somewhere that's at a high elevation, too: According to an absolutely terrifying new report in the New York Times, climate change has sped up the melting of West Antarctic ice sheet to such a degree that coastal cities—New York included—could be underwater in as little as a century.
The Times cites research showing that if the ice sheet (and ice in other regions) continues to melt at the rate it's going, "the total rise of the sea could reach five or six feet by 2100," an event that could "provoke a profound crisis within the lifetimes of children being born today."
Are you panicking yet? No? You probably will be after reading this:
New York City is nearly 400 years old; in the worst-case scenario conjured by the research, its chances of surviving another 400 years in anything like its present form would appear to be remote. Miami, New Orleans, London, Venice, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia, are all just as vulnerable as New York, or more so.
In principle, coastal defenses could be built to protect the densest cities, but experts believe it will be impossible to do that along all 95,000 miles of the American coastline, meaning that immense areas will most likely have to be abandoned to the rising sea.
So basically, in the worst case scenario, coastal cities will be totally abandoned, like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, as they're consumed by the rising tides. Guess we should get those those visits to the top of the Empire State Building or the State of Liberty over with now, because apparently they're not happening after 2100.
The research, which was first reported in the scientific journal Nature, is taken from "improvements in a computerized model of Antarctica and its complex landscape of rocks and glaciers, meant to capture factors newly recognized as imperiling the stability of the ice." The scientists who created the program used to make these predictions have been researching the disintegration of the ice sheets for years, and recently devised new ways to predict how human behavior is affecting those vulnerable bodies.
While scientists quoted in the Times were quick to note that this isn't the definitive answer on rising seas due to climate change, they weren't especially optimistic. "We are not saying this is definitely going to happen," David Pollard, a researcher who co-authored the paper, told the Times. "But I think we are pointing out that there’s a danger, and it should receive a lot more attention."
We're not even going to try and summarize everything in the Times piece; suffice to say, it's worth reading in its entirety, if only so you can get as freaked out about NYC's future fate as a real-life Waterworld as we are, and try to do something about it. (And in the meantime, maybe make some plans to move to the Midwest, or something.)