By Lise Alves, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – Scientists have warned that climate change will cause a faster sea level rise in the coming decades than anything seen in the last thousand years. That means coastal communities across the Eastern United States seaboard could be under water by the end of the century including well-known colleges and universities.
“A lot of people have this perception that because sea-level rise is happening so slowly, it really won’t be a problem until later in the century,” said Kristina Dahl, the lead analyst behind a recent study by climate watchdog group, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) study.
The 2018 study showed that along with residents, wildlife and commerce, higher education facilities located along these threatened areas will be affected.
“For many places, especially on the East and Gulf Coast, they could see significant impacts in just the next thirty years or so,” Dahl was quoted as saying on daily USA Today last week.
To mitigate possible future problems with flooding, many higher education institutions along the coast are raising buildings and constructing protective barriers in hopes of making their campuses safe in the future.
Universities, like Texas A&M, whose Galveston campus is one of the areas most likely to be affected as sea levels rise from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, are trying to adopt measures so they can remain in the flood-threatened areas.
Today the campus, located on Pelican Island, has evacuation plans in case of flooding and stricter building codes that require structures to be elevated.
Stockton University, on the New Jersey shore, is another higher education facility that may face massive flooding in the years to come. University officials announced plans last month to open up of a 4,000- to 8,000-square-foot incubator on the first floor of the school’s residential building in their Atlantic City campus, to discuss solutions to help mitigate problems arising from higher tides.
With a $20 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill opened a similar center, called the Coastal Resilience Institute of Excellence, reports daily The Press of Atlantic City.
In Florida, where climate change effects are expected to be seen more clearly than anywhere in the continental U.S., officials are getting together to find solutions to possible heavy flooding in some areas.
In the Tampa region, home to over twenty universities and colleges, more than 27 city governments have signed a Regional Resiliency Coalition to help fight the rising tides expected in coming years. According to a Brookings Institute report the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region is the second-most vulnerable metro in the U.S.
The most pessimistic federal projections, made by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show the sea level in the region will rise eight feet on average by 2100. That means that Eckerd College in St. Petersburg will be submerged in a little more than eighty years.
As officials from higher education facilities along coastal regions in the United States try to find ways to save their campuses, most agree with Sam Brody, a professor at Texas’ A&M university and director for the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores: moving the location of educational facilities would be the last resort.
“The notion that we are going to pack up and move inland is not in our culture, and in some cases, it’s not just possible,” says Brody about the Galveston campus. “It’s more productive from a policy standpoint to think about resiliency and adaptability, not retreat from the coast,” Brody told daily USA Today.