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Neil deGrasse Tyson: It Might Be Too Late to Save ‘Our Greatest Cities’ From Climate Change

As a brutal hurricane season continues to batter the Caribbean and the United States, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson thinks it might be too late to save coastal cities from the effects of climate change.

Speaking to Fareed Zakaria on CNN, deGrasse Tyson said the vulnerability of the global economy’s most important hubs could have devastating impacts. “I worry that we might not be able to recover from this because all our greatest cities are on the oceans and water’s edges, historically for commerce and transportation,” deGrasse Tyson said.

This season’s storms have already caused damage and disruption to coastal cities. Hurricane Harvey is estimated to have caused as much as $180 billion in damage in and around Houston, whose economy hinges on its proximity to oil and gas processing, and to trading hubs along the Gulf of Mexico. And while Hurricane Irma did not strike either Miami or Tampa Bay with its full force, millions of Florida residents and businesses remain without power a week after the storm. One estimate predicted that the two storms could reduce U.S. GDP growth by up to 1% for the current quarter.

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While it is difficult to attribute individual storms to climate change, scientists widely agree that the warmer oceans caused by climate change make hurricanes stronger. DeGrasse Tyson said that storms and rising sea levels will make it harder to defend coastal cities.

“We don’t have a civilization with the capacity to pick up a city and move it inland 20 miles,” he said. “That’s – this is happening faster than our ability to respond. That could have huge economic consequences.”