Friday, March 20, 2015

Growth in Coastal Areas May Expose 1B People to Sea-Level Rise by 2060

Population estimates (year 2010) and projections (year 2025) for selected megacities (> 8 million people) located in the LECZ were derived from the UN's World Urbanization Prospects. (Credit: Neumann et al.; CC-BY) Click to Enlarge.
While residents in Vanuatu are still battling flash floods caused by a devastating tropical cyclone last week, a study says coastal population growth may make storm threats from the sea a global crisis within a few decades.

In a paper published recently in the journal PLOS ONE, a team of researchers from several Western institutes estimated the number of people living in low-elevation coastal zones, as well as the scale of the population at risk from one-in-100-year storm surge events, by using scenario-based projections.

Their findings show that even under the lowest growth assumptions, the global population in low-elevation coastal zones could rise by more than 40 percent, from 625 million in 2000 to 879 million in 2030.  By 2060, the researchers say, more than a billion people worldwide could be living in those flood-prone areas.

Among them, 411 million people could be affected by extreme flooding by 2060, the study notes. By contrast, this figure was 189 million in 2000.

When it comes to regions, the study says, Asia has the highest degree of exposure, both now and in future scenarios.  To be specific, five Asian countries -- China, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam -- accounted for more than half of the world's population exposed to coastal flooding in 2000 and will maintain the top five positions over the coming decades.

Besides that, the researchers found that Africa is expected to experience the highest rate of population growth in at-risk areas, driven by its rapid coastal development.  And while wealthier economies generally are less exposed to the danger of coastal flooding than those in the developing world, the study says, the United States is an exception.

According to the study, the United States was among the 25 countries with the largest population living in low-elevation coastal zones in 2000.  This trend is likely to continue, the researchers said, adding that major coastal disasters such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012 already have indicated the possibly increasing risks associated with settling in the country's low-lying coastal areas.

The study authors say that their findings can help identify areas where adaptation actions are not only desired but essential.  They also suggested that policymakers worldwide should take climate shocks into account when planning future land use along the coast.

Read more at Growth in Coastal Areas May Expose 1B People to Sea-Level Rise by 2060

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