Ann Curry Reports   |  April 07, 2014

Our Year of Extremes: Did Climate Change Just Hit Home? Part 5

Sea level is expected to rise by at least a foot in the next 100 years, though some scientists say three to four feet is also possible. Five major American cities are on a World Bank list of cities with the most to lose economically from rising sea levels.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> it is a beautiful house .

>> 11 months after super storm sandy sent waves through their staten island neighborhood, pedro and jen had a decision to make. we build or move to higher ground .

>> there is nothing here.

>> we walked with them to see what was left.

>> the people that lived here were like family to us. pedro showed us how high his new house would have to be to withstand a storm serge to with withstand a storm like sandy.

>> my children and wife would go to sleep every night wondering if the ocean would come in and take the family away. now pedro and jen blame climate change for uprooting their lives.

>> i live next to the water, i see changes. i'm not trying to convince anyone. that's not my job. but it changed my mind.

>>> tom wagner says one reason for sandy's devastating storm surge is the ocean around new york city has risen about a foot in the last 100 years, and that will affect many people living in coastal areas for many years to come.

>> do all scientists agree that the sea levels are rising?

>> there is no disagreement about sealevels rising. that is not a model or theory, it's a measurement.

>> sea level is expected to rise at least a foot more in the next three to four years.

>> is it your sense that people will have time to get out of the way?

>> that -- it depends on who you are, where you are, and what your resources are. if you're in an extremely low lying area like bangladesh, they talk about a foot and a half of sea level rise displacing ten million people. if you're in the united states with resources, areas right on the coast could be damaged, but they will be able to move to interiors.

>> a recent study lists cities around the world with the most to lose from rising sea levels . miami, new york, tampa, and boston all make the list. nicolai tries to visualize what it would look like. here is what he imagines would happen to the jefferson memorial , and the statute of liberty. many scientists think that kind of a sea level rise would not happen for sentures. here is lamb's ill vags of ocean drive in miami beach florida . at five feet, at 12 feet, and 25 feet he thinks the beach mecca might be under water.

>> when you look from up here, it becomes pretty obvious why it might be at risk. there is another reason that you can't see that makes miami beach , a city of 90,000 people, even more vulnerable.

>> it turns out, miami beach was built on a porus limestone plateau. that means seawater ka force it's way in through drains and the ground. and it is already happening. in high tides, ocean water can overwhelm the drains here. flooding roads facing this one at the bay.

>> i was here in october when we had the high tides, and i went in the street and the water was to my knees.

>> karen is a research scientist at the center for environmental studies . her work focuses on mapping what parts of southeast florida are most at risk. according to one of her maps, that road she was standing on would likely be under water in a century if nothing is done.

>> it's here and happening and we need to do something.

>> and she told us her sense of urgency comes not just from thinking about the worst case scenario in which miami beach is under water, but she says just a few extra inches could have a serious impact on people's health.

>> we would have more risk of contamination to our water supply , and disease vectors . those are some of the issues we need to look at.

>> and there is billions in property estate too. she took us to the seawall at miami beach to look for ourselves.

>> i can tell you the water will be higher. it's not going to stop rising, and how much higher, we don't know, but we're getting more and more accurate and we need to eventually make more drastic changes.

>> but miami beach is spending a lot of money to make sure that doesn't happen. that road where we first met karen is just one sight that is currently under construction. part of a $4 billion plan to keep water out.

>> they're planning to install six pumps.

>> she acknowledges this short-term fix will not defend the city against how high it is expected to be by the turn of the century .

>> that's fine, we have time. 2100, we won't be alive then, but our children will and that's what's important.

>> by now we have seen the impacts of climate change , and we wonder if anything could be done to stop it in it's tracks.

>> the question is can we slow down the train?

>> what would it take and what can we do?

>> it's like putting a man on the moon or going into world war ii . all hands on deck. making skin