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Predictions Put Some Of South Florida Under Water by 2025

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- With the ever-encroaching threat of climate change, some prognosticators have recommended that South Floridians better learn to swim.

According to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences, Miami and Hollywood are two of the dozens of coastal cities in the U.S. predicted to be washed away by rising sea levels this century.

"Some cities appear to be already lost," study lead author Benjamin Strauss told CBS News.

Miami is one of those. Like New Orleans, the findings consider both cities past the point of no return.

"For New Orleans, there are levees, it's possible to build levees higher and stronger for some time, but that's not necessarily safe or sustainable in the long run. We've already seen what can happen when levees break, when the sea level gets higher, the bigger the tragedy can be."

Research suggests that at the current pace, carbon emissions could increase the sea level at least 14 feet by the year 2100. That puts 1,800 municipalities along the coast in danger, including 21 cities with populations of more than 100,000 residents.

Strauss' data has calculated the "lock-in date" for these cities, or the year at which carbon emission levels have essentially sealed a city's fate and would put them under water.

Hollywood has a lock-in date of 2025. New York City is at 2095.

But for cities with the more distant lock-in dates like Wilmington, N.C., and Bridgeport, Conn., there's still hope. The findings also indicate that "aggressive carbon cuts" could have an impact in slowing down coastal flooding decimation.

"We are not talking about a sea level rise happening tomorrow," Strauss reiterated to CBS News. "Instead, we are talking about what could happen if the genie we let out of the bottle continues to grow. We are talking about what could happen if we continue to emit this much carbon into the atmosphere."

Although the carbon emissions issue is one of climate policy, Strauss stressed that the findings from these kinds of studies should continue to offer a wake-up call about our energy consumption.

"In the long run, each gallon (of gasoline) we burn eventually ads 400 gallons of water to the ocean," Strauss noted.

However, he added that not only does the U.S. have the ways and means of reversing these trends, the country could even profit by helping others reduce their coastal flooding impact.

"We have a lot of resources, a lot of money compared to most places at risk. I think we have an opportunity to invest, to find an economic opportunity and reduce the pain of loss," he said. "We can pioneer those kinds of measures that could become an expertise we could export to the world. It could be a service."

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