Destruction caused by rising sea levels will be much worse than previously imagined, new research reveals

By Jason Duaine Hahn
October 30, 2019 06:58 PM
JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty

Rising sea levels spurred on by climate change will threaten three times as many people by 2050 as scientists previously calculated, according to a new report in the journal Nature Communications.

The study, published on Tuesday, estimates that oceans could rise between .6 meters to 2.1 meters throughout the next century, which will lead to dozens of coastal cities disappearing from the planet.

“To us it’s a staggering difference,” Benjamin Strauss, one of the study’s authors and CEO of the non-profit Climate Central, told New Scientist about the findings. “It’s a completely new perspective on the scale of this threat.”

Using advances in elevation modeling technology, the researchers found that this increase in sea levels will affect up to 630 million people by the end of the 21st century, with the biggest threat falling on communities in Asia.

Seventy percent of people currently living on land that will be threatened by flooding live in eight Asian countries: China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan. This will affect cities like Bangkok, Shanghai and Mumbai. According to the study, nearly the entirety of Vietnam’s southern tip could be underwater.

By 2050, land that is occupied by 300 million people today will be below the elevation of the average annual coastal food, which will place them at risk of at least one severe flood a year, CNN said, citing the report. Cities in Africa and the Middle East could be underwater by that time, such as Alexandria in Egypt and Basra in Iraq.

By 2100, 200 million people could be displaced after their land is completely consumed by water.

Flooding in Houston in September 2019
Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

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“There is a really huge concentration of population density in the very lowest strips of land, in the lowest places along the coast globally,” Strauss told Business Insider. “It turns out within those first couple of meters [above sea-level], there are more than 3 million people per vertical inch.”

Brazil and the United Kingdom, along with more than a dozen other countries, could see large areas permanently fall below the high tide line by 2100, CNN reported.

The influx of people moving inland to escape rising waters will cause massive geopolitical ramifications, the researchers warned.

“If our findings stand, coastal communities worldwide must prepare themselves for much more difficult futures than may be currently anticipated,” Strauss and co-author Scott A. Kulp wrote in the study. “Recent work has suggested that, even in the US, sea-level rise this century may induce large-scale migration away from unprotected coastlines, redistributing population density across the country and putting great pressure on inland areas.”

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“It is difficult to extrapolate such projections and their impacts to more resource-constrained developing nations, though historically, largescale migration events have posed serious challenges to political stability, driving conflict,” they continued.

The researchers suggest that more modeling of timing, locations, and intensity of migratory responses to coastal flooding is needed to reduce potential harm to millions of people.

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