NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Rising sea levels means rising cost. Old Dominion University researchers are now estimating the cost of violent coast storms and recurrent flooding.
“We know the bathtub is filling. Do you want to turn off the water at some point? Most people would say yes, ‘we don’t want to overfill the bathtub,'” ODU economics professor, Bob Mcnab, said.
Mcnab said our shores are filling up and soon will spill out to other areas, including people’s homes, businesses and our roadways.
The researcher’s data corresponded to average sea level rise data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A map the researchers released shows what ODU could look like with rising sea levels.
The research studies the damage of a 1-in-100 storm, which has a one percent chance of happening each year. The research shows levels could be around 1.61 feet by 2040. If we had a violent coastal storm, the damage would be estimated at about $1.6 billion. That amount is only the economic loss in Hampton Roads.
NOAA data suggest sea levels are rising year over year. Mcnab said it’s our job to turn off the water. He said if we don’t do anything about the rising sea levels, we could expect higher grocery bills, car, home and renters insurance.
“It will take money and time to get goods to the market because there is no direct route because the route is flooded,” Mcnab said.
It’s not just your pockets that would hurt. Researchers project Virginia could suffer an economic loss as high as $79 billion.
“If sea level rise continues and we do nothing about it, how much would it cost people today? What we found is it would be roughly $79 billion, which accounts for almost 14 percent of all economic activity in Virginia,” Mcnab said.
The Hampton Roads economy could suffer blows too. Rising sea levels could threaten our military bases — which account for 40 percent of the local economy.
Mcnab said you need to start putting your hand on the faucet.
“You can go to your city council and say, ‘look, we need to move our building codes so we can build more resilient homes, more resilient businesses,'” he said. “Think about adopting cleaner forms of energy. That might be buying solar panels, putting in a power roof and using an electric vehicle.”
Mcnab also thinks a carbon tax could be beneficial. The tax is similar to taxes you see at the gas pump.
“Many economists have concluded that a global carbon tax is the most efficient way to reduce emissions, so people can make their own decisions about what is valuable to them,” he said.
Mcnab said a conscious effort to reduce rising sea levels and improve our carbon emissions would help. He said small actions today lead to bigger changes later.