Global sea levels will rise and that will have real impacts on Connecticut’s coast. That’s the message researchers gave to state legislators in Hartford this week.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, scientists are very confident global sea level will rise an average of at least 8 inches, but no more than 6 feet by 2100.
James O’Donnell, executive director of the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation (CIRCA), said even small changes to sea level will make a big difference in coastal flooding in Connecticut.
“A few inches, say 20 inches, can change how frequently things happen,” O’Donnell said. “Things that used to occur once every 10 years are now going to occur once every two or three years.”
According to NOAA, global sea level has risen more than 3 inches since 1993. Last year was the seventh year in a row that sea levels rose over the previous year.
Joseph MacDougald, a professor at the UConn School of Law, said the costs of climate change are already bearing out.
At a recent meeting with zoning officials, he asked what new problems planners are seeing in their neighborhoods. All of a sudden, hands started to go up, with the planners repeating a similar complaint.
“Our roads are failing ahead of schedule,” MacDougald said. “Now, that’s not something that we’d normally think of as a climatological problem, but it comes from this type of increased storm … and it was just so dramatic. Everyone whose hands went up were people who had towns on the coast where they’re just getting more flooding.”
CIRCA researchers recommend that planners anticipate that sea levels in Long Island Sound will be 20 inches higher by 2050.
More than 120 million people, or nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, live in counties directly on the shoreline.