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Sea level rise will bring flooding to parts of Seattle by 2050

City plan will reduce greenhouse gases and adapt to climate change

Within the next 40 years, sea level rise caused by climate change will flood parts of Seattle during high tides, according to a new map developed by City planners, using conservative scientific assumptions.

Warming oceans are raising sea levels and changing shorelines worldwide. A new map created by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) shows parts of West Seattle, Georgetown, South Park, Harbor Island, Interbay and Golden Gardens could be inundated by 2050. The impact on Seattle shorelines depends on factors such as tides and storms, along with actions the City may take to reduce its own contribution to climate change.

“Climate change is an immediate and critical challenge,” City Councilmember Mike O’Brien, chair of the Energy & Environment Committee said. “We are already seeing impacts in Seattle from extreme events, such as last month’s flooding of some 100 properties along Beach Drive in West Seattle. We need to take bold steps to prepare our city for expected impacts and drastically reduce our contribution to greenhouse gases going forward.”

The City of Seattle has already taken action to deal with climate change. Departments have been taking steps to reduce their climate footprint and adapt to changes in temperature, precipitation and sea level rise. In 2010, Seattle made a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050 and is writing a new Climate Action Plan to meet that goal.

“Seattle Public Utilities’ sea level rise map suggests we have work to do to ensure Seattle’s utility infrastructure and assets are prepared for climate change,” said Jean Godden, chair of the Libraries, Utilities and Center Committee. “Seattle is at the forefront of cities doing climate change planning and we intend to stay there. We’re going to make sure – starting now – that climate change impacts join safety and reliability as primary planning considerations for SPU and all city departments.”

Today, the City Council called for public input on a set of recommendations for a new Climate Action Plan that were put forward by a recently convened Green Ribbon Commission.

“In the absence of meaningful climate action by the federal government, the Mayor instructed the Green Ribbon Commission to continue Seattle’s tradition of climate leadership among the nation’s cities,” said Green Ribbon Commission co-chair Denis Hayes, president of the Bullitt Foundation. “Our recommendations were designed to help Seattle significantly reduce its own climate impact, and also-learning from Katrina and Sandy-help the city prepare for climate disruptions that are now inevitable. Equally important, these actions will also make Seattle a more equitable, prosperous and safe place to live.”

“The Climate Action Plan will build on Seattle’s legacy of environmental leadership,” O’Brien said. “Over the next two months we will hold a series of public forums and host an online survey to gather input from the people of Seattle to help guide the actions the city needs to take. We welcome all ideas and suggestions for actions we should take in the next three years as well as in the long-term. We plan to adopt a bold Climate Action Plan on Earth Day, April 22.”

It is not too early for Seattleites to start preparing, either. Residents living in areas prone to flooding are advised to obtain federal flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program, available through Federal Emergency Management Agency. The average flood insurance policy typically costs around $600 per year.