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Carol Causey and her daughter Carol Causey, 3, make their way home through flood water after parking their car on the neutral ground on Jeff Davis Street in New Orleans, La. Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017.

By 2045, nearly 41,000 homes in Louisiana could be at risk of chronic disruptive flooding caused by sea level rise, according to a report released Sunday by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The report says nearly 99,000 people could be affected by floods that would happen 26 times a year or more. The value of the homes affected by the flooding is pegged at nearly $4.3 billion, contributing $36 million in property taxes.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit that has long warned against climate change, says it based its study on sea level rise scenarios developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and property data from Zillow.

Rachel Cleetus, an economist and co-author of the report, noted homes in coastal areas often have property values that don’t reflect the significant risk posed by sea level rise. That could pose a problem in the near future, when the risk catches up to reality, she said.

“In contrast with previous housing market crashes, values of properties chronically inundated due to sea level rise are unlikely to recover and will only continue to go further underwater, literally and figuratively,” Cleetus said.

Louisiana faces an additional problem: the number of poor people who live in homes at risk of flooding. The report notes that in Houma and Bayou Cane, where chronic flooding could wipe out up to 25 percent of the property tax base, between 1 in 5 and 1 in 3 residents live in poverty. More than 10,000 homes out of nearly 36,000 in Terrebonne Parish could be affected.

“Renters too might find themselves in a tight market or having to put up with decaying buildings and increased nuisance flooding,” Cleetus said. “Hits to the property tax base in low-income communities, which already experience significant under-investment in critical services and infrastructure, could prove especially challenging.”

According to the report, 5,031 homes in St. Charles Parish could be at risk of chronic flooding by 2045, more than half of the 9,105 homes in the parish. Flooding is projected to affect 832 homes in Ascension, 124 in Iberville, 1,819 in Jefferson, 1,355 in Livingston, 279 in Orleans, 255 in Plaquemines, 223 in St. Bernard, 486 in St. James, 1,436 in St. John the Baptist, 446 in St. Martin, 1,145 in St. Mary, 3,992 in St. Tammany, 58 in Tangipahoa and 10,015 in Terrebonne.

The Union of Concerned Scientists said the tide could be turned if the U.S. meets the goals of the Paris Climate Accords and drastically cuts greenhouse gas emissions. 

“If we manage to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement by keeping warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius and if ice loss is limited, 85 percent of all affected residential properties — valued at $782 billion today and currently accounting for more than $10.4 billion in annual property tax revenue to municipal governments — could avoid chronic flooding this century," said Astrid Caldas, a climate scientist and the co-author of the report. "The longer we wait to drastically reduce emissions, the less likely it is that we will achieve this outcome.”



Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.