Thursday, May 19

Up to 410m at Risk from Sea Level Rise Unless Emissions Are Reduced, Study Finds | The sea level

Up to 410 million people will live in areas less than six feet above sea level and will be at risk from rising sea levels, unless global emissions are reduced, according to a new study.

Paper, published in Nature Communications, finds that 267 million people around the world currently live on land less than two meters above sea level. Using a remote sensing method called Lidar, which pulses laser light across coastal areas to measure elevation on Earth’s surface, the researchers predict that by 2100, with a sea level rise of one meter and one zero population growth, that number could rise to 410 million people. , with most of this land found in the tropics.

Their maps showed that 62% of the land at greatest risk is concentrated in the tropics, and that Indonesia has the largest area of ​​land at risk in the world. These projections showed an even higher risk going forward, with 72% of the population at risk in the tropics and 59% only in tropical Asia.

Aljosja Hooijer, specialist in water resources for Deltares, an independent institute for applied research in water and groundwater, and the lead study leader, said that while the research was inherently uncertain, more focus was needed in tropical regions to prevent long-term flooding.

He said: “There are a lot of scientists looking for long-term scenarios. But it is happening now in parts of the world and in these parts of the world, mainly in the tropics. And not only in Southeast Asia, it is also, for example, in the Niger Delta and Lagos.

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“If you look at sea level rise, the impact research to date is primarily focused on defining sea level rise scenarios. Relatively little attention has been paid to elevation data, and that’s simply because people felt that not much could be done about it, including us for a long time. “

I wanted to emphasize that while this study was not a research project on sea level rise, the new elevation data model was based on accurate data, which is often not available in many parts of the world.

“In some countries like the Netherlands, or parts of the UK, and much of the US, they have excellent data for these coastal areas, because they fly Lidar every four years. It costs tens of millions of euros just to cover the Netherlands. Obviously, in much of the world, people don’t have that kind of funding. “

The climate emergency has caused a rise in sea level and the appearance of more frequent and severe storms, which increases the risk of flooding in coastal environments.

Last year, a survey published by Climate and Atmospheric Science, which added the opinions of 106 specialists, suggested that coastal cities should prepare for sea level rise that could reach 5 meters by 2300, potentially engulfing areas. that are home to hundreds of millions. from the people.

Maarten van Aalst, Professor of Climate and Disaster Resilience, and Contributing Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said: “These numbers are another wake-up call to the immense number of people at risk in lowland areas, particularly in vulnerable countries in the global South, where people often experience these risks as part of a toxic mix with other risk factors, which currently also include Covid-19.

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“While risks have already increased, we have made tremendous strides in better anticipating the dangers faced by vulnerable populations, enabling effective evacuation, for example reducing lives lost to typhoons in Bangladesh from hundreds of thousands in the 1990s. 1970 to about 120 in the case of super typhoon Amphan last year.

“But those people still return to their devastated livelihoods and are more vulnerable to the next shock that will surely come soon. By looking at a broader set of risks, we found that we could see a doubling of people requiring humanitarian aid by 2050 ”.

Sally Brown, deputy director of life and environmental sciences at Bournemouth University, said: “This research shows once again that many millions of people around the world live in flood risk areas. Rising sea levels increase the threat of floods, which could have particularly severe impacts on communities and people’s livelihoods in developing countries ”.

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