July 26, 2011 / 10:58 PM / in 6 years

US cities face water-related climate dangers-report

BOSTON, July 26 (Reuters) - Rising sea waters may threaten U.S. coastal cities later this century, while the Midwest and East Coast are at high risk for intense storms, and the West’s water supplies could be compromised.

These are among the expected water-related effects of climate change on 12 cities across the nation over the remainder of the century, according to a study released on Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a leading environmental group.

“A lot of people think of climate change in the global context, but they don’t think about the local impact climate change might have, particularly on water-related issues,” said Steve Fleischli, a senior attorney with NRDC’s water program.

In the coming decades, Miami, New Orleans and Norfolk, Virginia were expected to be the coastal cities hardest hit by flooding and storm surges due to rising sea levels, the group said.

In Boston, where the city’s airport is flanked by water, historic landmarks and critical transportation infrastructure were at a greater risk of flooding due to rising sea levels.

Los Angeles, Seattle and San Francisco will face similar danger from rising waters, according to the report.

The NRDC said climate change was making heat waves, floods and droughts more severe. The Midwest was predicted to experience frequent and intense storms. Chicago, for example, could see the frequency of heavy rainfall rise by 50 percent in the next 30 years.

Along the East Coast, Norfolk and New York could see infrastructure compromised due to increased rainfall, research showed.

While too much water was expected to plague certain parts of the country going forward, Los Angeles, Seattle and Phoenix could see their water supplies “seriously threatened.”

Rising temperatures, less rainfall and decreased snowpack were all contributing factors, the report said.

Tackling the anticipated affects of climate change means studying potential vulnerabilities upfront, the NRDC said, adding that cities will need to minimize greenhouse gases, secure infrastructure and conserve water, among other steps.

The 12 cities in the study were selected for their range in size, geographic diversity and availability of local information.

“You can’t look just at the cost of taking action,” NRDC attorney and report lead author Michelle Mehta said. “You have to look at the cost of not doing anything as well.”

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