The team, led by Tufts University civil and environmental engineering Research Professor Paul Kirshen, presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society.
Their research shows that over the next century, damage to residential, commercial and industrial buildings and their contents in metropolitan Boston (an area stretching from Ipswich to Duxbury) could exceed $20 billion, depending on how the city responds to rising sea levels. Costs could run as high as $94 billion, if climate weather conditions are more severe than expected.
"We just celebrated the 25th anniversary of Boston's notorious Blizzard of '78, which created enough damage across coastal Massachusetts to cost $550 million in today's dollars," said Kirshen. "Because of the rising sea level and increased waterfront development, a storm of that magnitude would cause far more damage if it occurred today," he added.
The research was funded by a $900,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to study climate change in metropolitan Boston. Kirshen and his team examined current local coastal flood data, the impact of rising sea levels and the continuing commercial and residential development along metro Boston's coastline.
Kirshen explains that global climate change - with its melting glaciers, melting polar ice caps and thermal expansion of the oceans, coupled with the natural "sinking" of land - has raised sea levels, which are threatening Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, New Orleans and other coastal cities around the country.