According to new research, climate-driven sea level rise could affect three times more people by 2050 than previously thought. This sobering assessment means some of the world’s great coastal cities, including Bangkok, Shanghai, Mumbai, Basra, Alexandria, and Ho Chi Minh City, could be in big trouble.
Scientists have always relied on land elevation data to determine the effects of sea level rise over large areas. But standard elevation measurements using satellites struggle to differentiate the true ground level from the tops of trees or buildings. The authors of the paper developed a more accurate way to calculate land elevation by using artificial intelligence to determine the error rate and to correct for it. The new findings revealed that 150 million people – three times more than previously thought – are now living on land that is projected to be below the high-tide line by the middle of this century.
Eight Asian nations – China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan – account for about 70% of the people living on at-risk land.
More than 20 million people in Vietnam, including much of Ho Chi Minh City, live on land that will be inundated by 2050. In Thailand, more than 10% of its citizens, including much of Bangkok, currently live on land imperiled by projected sea level rise.
This new research was produced by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based science organization, and was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.
Sea level rise is clearly not just an environmental problem. It’s a humanitarian crisis.
New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding
Rising Seas Will Erase More Cities by 2050, New Research Shows
Photo, posted December 18, 2009, courtesy of Misko via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.
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