On Wednesday, climate experts raised concerns to the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget about rising sea levels and tidal flooding caused by global warming, warning that such changes are responsible for billions of dollars in damages to coastal communities.
In the hearing titled, "Rising Seas, Rising Costs" experts also warned that the risk is still growing.
Matthew Eby, the founder of First Street Foundation, a non-profit research organization, told the panel that flooding caused by global warming is causing an increasing amount of property damage and it is driving up insurance costs.
"By looking at the universe of available real estate transactions from the years 2005 to 2017 in coastal counties, we found a quantifiable $15.9 billion in losses directly attributable to properties exposed to mere tidal flooding," Eby testified at the hearing on Wednesday.
The committee’s Democratic chairman, Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, said that 40% of the U.S. population lives along or near the 13,000 miles of America’s coastline, making the issue of rising seas a threat to large numbers of Americans.
"More than a trillion dollars worth of residential and commercial real estate is coastal, as is much of our infrastructure: ports, coastal roads, water treatment facilities," said Whitehouse.
One witness said Florida and the rest of the East Coast are disproportionately affected.
"For instance, the sea level along the eastern seaboard of the United States has been rising three to four times faster than the global average. And, in the Miami area alone daily high water levels have been rising almost an inch a year," Sean Becketti, the Principal of Elliott Bay Analytics.
Efforts to combat sea level rise are costing the state of Florida alone more than $4 billion, according to sealevelrise.org.
Becketti whose company analyzes how climate change affects housing and mortgage costs said the National Flood Insurance Program is $20 billion in debt and accruing "over $1 million per day in interest charges because of rising damage claims."
Republicans on the committee questioned why the hearing was even held and rather wanted to focus on America's debt.
"What this committee should be focusing on is $31 and a half trillion dollars worth of debt... a baseline budget has gone from $4.5 trillion prior to COVID to appears about $6 trillion," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said.
"I think we are focusing on the budget by focusing on the sea level rise calamity that is roaring towards us," said Whitehouse.
Experts said the risk of coastal flooding is increasing. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that sea levels will increase by nearly a foot on average along the US coast by 2050.