Almost 9,000 South Carolinians live in homes at risk of flooding dozens of times a year by 2030, study says

The number of people jumps to 186,222 by the end of the century


White Point Garden following massive flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016 - DUSTIN WATERS FILE PHOTO
  • Dustin Waters file photo
  • White Point Garden following massive flooding caused by Hurricane Matthew in 2016
A new study chronicles the effects of climate change and rising seas on U.S. coastal properties, and the results are not looking pretty for South Carolina.

According to findings released by the Union of Concerned Scientists on Monday, some 8,715 South Carolinians will live in homes at risk of "chronic inundation," or flooding at least 26 times in one year, in just 12 years based on the highest sea level rise projections.

By 2045, the number of people at risk in the Palmetto State jumps to 23,825. By 2100, over 186,000 people will live in these properties.

The study was conducted using data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the real estate website Zillow.

The worst-case scenario assumes "rapid ice sheet loss" and projects a global sea level rise of 6.6 feet by the end of the century — more than double the amount of water Charleston is preparing for in the Battery's latest renovation plans.

"The high scenario is considered most applicable in situations with a low tolerance for risk," the report says. "This makes it most suitable for estimating the scale of risk to residential properties, which typically represent a homeowner’s greatest single asset."

The value of the 5,779 South Carolina homes at risk of chronic inundation by the year 2030 is about $2.9 billion, according to the report.

Using the highest prediction of sea level rise, two S.C. zip codes on Hilton Head (29928) and Johns Island (29455) are in the study's top 50 list of zip codes with the highest number of homes subject to chronic flooding by 2045.

If sea levels rise by just two feet by 2045 (a best-case scenario), 1,163 homes on the lower part of the Charleston peninsula would be left at risk of chronic flooding, according to a Post & Courier analysis — nearly a quarter of the homes in that area.

The difference in consequences between the best-case and worst-case scenarios are "stark," the report states.

"A rapid decrease in carbon emissions coupled with slow melting of land-based ice could lead to substantially slower rates of sea level rise," the report states. "With this low sea level rise scenario, by the year 2060, our analysis finds that the number of homes at risk of chronic inundation would be reduced by nearly 80 percent, from 625,000 with the high scenario to 138,000 with the low scenario."

If the conditions of the 2015 Paris climate accord were met, the U.S. could continue to safely house 4.1 million people nationwide and avoid losing residential properties valued at $780 billion.

"Unfortunately, the low, or best-case, scenario is not the track we are on, given current emissions and the vulnerability of the Antarctic ice sheet to warming temperatures, as indicated by the latest research," the report says.

Last year, President Trump withdrew the United States from the 195-country Paris Agreement.

"At what point does America get demeaned?" Trump asked during the announcement. "At what point do they start laughing at us as a country? We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won’t be."

Aside from dramatic landscape changes, the Lowcountry's tax base could also be affected.

Over the next 30 years in S.C., "nearly 1,500 homes on Kiawah Island would be at risk, and more than 2,700 on Hilton Head. On Kiawah Island, those homes represent nearly one-quarter of the local property tax base today."

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

Add a comment