Quantcast
Climate
Flooding in Dhaka, Bangladesh, one of eight cities especially vulnerable to sea level rise. Michael Hall / Photolibrary / Getty Images

8 World Cities That Could Be Underwater as Oceans Rise

If global temperatures rise above 1.5° Celsius above pre-industrial levels—the ideal temperature limit set by the Paris agreement—global sea levels will rise by more than 40 centimeters (approximately 15.7 inches) by 2100. If temperatures top 2° Celsius, sea level rise will be more than 50 centimeters (approximately 20 inches) by century's end. This could be devastating to coastal cities around the world that are already vulnerable to storms and flooding because of geological or urban planning factors.


That is the finding of a report from Christian Aid looking at eight coastal cities especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The Christian Aid report is one of several from organizations around the world being published in anticipation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on how and if the world can achieve the 1.5° Celsius goal, The Guardian reported. The IPCC report, scheduled to be released on Monday, is expected to say that the 1.5° goal is possible with urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Christian Aid report helps illuminate what is at stake.

"These global metropolises may look strong and stable, but it is a mirage. As sea levels rise, they are increasingly under threat and under water," report author Kat Kramer told The Guardian.

Jakarta, Indonesia: At a rate of 25.4 centimeters (approximately 10 inches) per year, Jakarta is the world's fastest sinking city. Much of this sinking is due to the digging of illegal wells to access groundwater, since surface drinking water options are too polluted to be safe. Because more than 97 percent of the city is covered in concrete, the groundwater is not replenished by rain and rivers. The city is also sinking due to the weight of its buildings. In addition, natural flood barriers like mangroves have been cut down to clear space for housing.

Bangkok, Thailand: Bangkok faces a similar problem of skyscrapers pushing down on water-depleted soils. A study released by the city government in 2015 predicted it could be underwater within 15 years. Bangkok has taken some action to preserve groundwater, such as the Ground Water Act of 1977 that restricted the amount of groundwater extracted. The city is now sinking at a slower rate than before, and water is being pumped back into the ground, but it is not enough to save the city from rising seas.

Lagos, Nigeria: Lagos is built on the coast and incorporates a series of islands. Poor drainage worsened the impact of devastating floods in 2011, and some estimates say that just 20 centimeters (approximately 8 inches) of sea level rise could render 740,000 people across Nigeria homeless. Lagos also faces the problem of excessive groundwater extraction. In addition, authorities are planning the construction of a new island called Eko Atlantic, planned as a new capital and financial center and designed to be protected by a sea wall. There are concerns the new development could worsen flooding for the rest of coastal and island Lagos by pushing flood waters its way.

Manila, Philippines: Manila is also sinking due to groundwater extraction at a rate of 10 centimeters (approximately 4 inches) per year, 10 times the rate of climate-caused sea level rise. Another problem is its extensive rice fields, which consume more water than other crops and increase flood risk when illegal fish ponds are built in tidal channels.

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Dhaka is sinking at a rate of 1.4 centimeters (approximately 0.55 inches) per year, and sea level rise in the Bay of Bengal is apparently around 10 times the global average. About 1.5 million people have already migrated from coastal villages to the city's slums. Dhaka's woes are made worse by groundwater extraction. The fact that the Indian plate and Burman sub-plate are moving in a way that causes Dhaka to subside adds to its woes, though groundwater extraction plays a larger role in its sinking than plate tectonics.

Shanghai, China: Shanghai is another major city sinking under the weight of its own development as groundwater extraction and increased building cause it to subside. It is also losing sediment that would naturally protect it because its rivers are dammed or because it is used for building materials. Shanghai did work to take action against sinking by requiring official permits for wells from 1995 and sourcing more water from the river, and it has reduced its sinking from nine centimeters (approximately 3.5 inches) to one centimeter (approximately 0.4 inches) per year. It has also caused land to rise in some places by pumping water back into the ground. The report pointed out that in some places land had risen by 11 centimeters (approximately 4.3 inches), which is the difference between the sea level rise predicted for 1.5 and two degrees of warming.

London, England: During the last ice age, glaciers pressed down on Scotland, causing the south of UK land mass to rise. Now that the glaciers have melted, Scotland is rising at a rate of 1 millimeter (approximately 0.04 inches) per year, and the south of England, including London, is sinking. The Thames Barrier, opened in 1984 to protect London from a one-in-100-year flood, was expected to be used two to three times a year. It is currently used double that, six to seven times yearly.

Houston, Texas: Houston sits on the Buffalo Bayou and is naturally flood prone for that reason, but it also is sinking due to groundwater extraction and, ironically, from the extraction of oil and natural gas from the ground beneath it. The Houston-Galveston area has already lowered by three cubic meters (approximately 105.9 inches), and the northwest is sinking by two inches a year.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Natural pine trees can liven up Christmas and the environment when they are replanted after. Cavan Images / Getty Images

5 Ways to Have a Green Christmas (and Help the Planet)

It's pretty common this time of year to hear the song White Christmas, but at EcoWatch we want folks to have a green Christmas. With a couple of tips, you can make sure your winter festivities have a smaller carbon footprint. Here are five ways you can have a more environmentally friendly holiday.

1. Give Green Gifts
Share your love of the planet by giving gifts that are good for the environment. Need ideas? The EcoWatch staff rounded up their favorite gifts, and USA Today highlights items such as iTunes gift cards, reusable straws, organic wine and non-toxic cosmetics in their story about purchasing green presents.

After you decide on the perfect gift, don't forget to also be mindful about the way it's wrapped. Not all wrapping paper can be recycled. In the U.S., you can recycle paper that does not have metallic, velvety or glittery elements, USA Today explains. Alternatives to conventional wrapping paper include recycling brown grocery bags, reusing old newspapers or wrapping gifts in reusable cloth (a 400-year-old Japanese practice called Furoshiki), Madeleine Somerville writes in The Guardian.

2. Dim the Lights
Christmas lights certainly make the season bright, but there's an ecological cost to all that electricity. The U.S. consumes 6.6 billion kilowatt hours of energy each year on seasonal light displays, The Center for Global Development reports citing a 2008 study from the U.S. Department of Energy. That's more energy than developing countries like El Salvador, Ethiopia, Cambodia or Nepal use in a year!

So what can you do if you think of lights as synonymous with Christmas? In The Guardian, Jessica Aldred suggests switching to LED, solar-powered or rechargeable-battery-powered lights. She also points out that "paraffin candles are made from petroleum residue ... Candles made from soy, beeswax or natural vegetable-based wax are more eco-friendly because they biodegrade and are smoke-free."

3. Choose the Right Tree
Christmas trees are so popular that 75 percent of Americans display a Christmas tree, with a majority of them choosing an artificial one, The New York Times reports, based on a data from the American Christmas Tree Association (ACTA). But is that the greenest option? While a new study by ACTA found that an artificial tree is more environmentally friendly than a real tree if you use the artificial tree for five years or more, others dispute that claim.

Bill Ulfelder, New York's Nature Conservancy executive director told The Times that "real trees were 'unquestionably' the better option." When bought locally, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced. Other ways to make your real tree purchase more environmentally friendly are to buy trees that can be replanted or find a local program that recycles trees and turns them into mulch.

4. Have a Glitter-Free Christmas
EcoWatch has written before about the dangers of glitter, which contributes to the microplastic pollution plaguing the oceans. Olga Pantos, a research scientist with New Zealand's Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), told Stuff that on a recent shopping trip that "it was almost impossible to find anything that didn't have glitter." So, choosing non-glittery decorations can help keep microplastics out of the oceans.

5. Help Fight #PointlessPlastic
Greenpeace UK is calling out supermarkets for their unnecessary plastic packaging of festive items, and they want you to join the fight. With the hashtag #PointlessPlastic, they are encouraging people to share photos of the worst offenses in supermarkets. Greenpeace will then ask the public to vote on the most egregious. "By exposing the worst festive plastic offenders, we'll be showing supermarkets that their use of plastic is unacceptable, and that their customers have had enough," Greenpeace states on it website.

Insights/Opinion
In the barrier reef in Belize a cave in formed a great blue hole. Lomingen / iStock / Getty Images Plus

LIVE Interview: Plastic Found in Great Blue Hole in Belize

2018 was the year for plastic pollution awareness. One good aspect of the plastic crisis is the fact that we can solve it. Getting involved with solutions is an easy way to have our voices heard globally.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Kingborough Council

Tasmania Builds Road From Single-Use Plastics, Glass and Printer Toner

A local government in Tasmania found a clever way to recycle single-use plastics and other landfill-bound waste by building a new road.

The 500-meter (1,640-foot) stretch outside the city of Hobart is made of approximately 173,600 plastic bags and packaging, as well as 82,500 glass bottle equivalents diverted from landfill, the Kingborough council announced Tuesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Insights/Opinion
Alchemy Goods / Bambaw / LuminAID

EcoWatch's Favorite Green Gifts for the Holidays

The holidays are coming and if you're stuck on what to give your eco-conscious friend or relative, we've got you covered. At EcoWatch, we're big fans of homemade presents, products that actually help the planet, and putting our dollars towards a good cause. This year, our staff has rounded up some of the best green gifts we've given and received, as well as the items on our wish list.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Politics
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Senate Approves Farm Bill

By Dan Nosowitz

The Farm Bill, which is supposed to be passed about every five years but which has for the past few been substantially delayed, finally saw the Senate floor Thursday, where it passed by a vote of 87 to 13.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Mtwrighter / CC BY-SA 4.0

Most Diverse Butterfly Center in the U.S. to be Bulldozed for Trump’s Border Wall

The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas is the most diverse butterfly sanctuary in the U.S. Some 200 species of butterflies find a home there each year, including the Mexican bluewing, the black swallowtail and the increasingly imperiled monarch. And, as soon as February, almost 70 percent of it could be lost to President Donald Trump's border wall, The Guardian reported Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Energy
McAfee Knob along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Appalachian Trail Conservancy / NPS

Court Tosses Controversial Pipeline Permits, Rules Forest Service Failed to ‘Speak for the Trees’

The Lorax would not approve of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the controversial pipeline intended to carry fracked natural gas through 600 miles in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. That's the sentiment behind a ruling by a Virginia appeals court Thursday tossing out a U.S. Forest Service permit for the pipeline to cross 21 miles of national forest in Virginia, including a part of the Appalachian Trail, The News & Observer reported.

Keep reading... Show less
Business
The Overpass Light Brigade at Bascom Hall in Madison, Wisconsin on April 4, 2014. depthandtime / Flickr

Global Divestment Movement Celebrates Milestone: 1,000 Institutions With Nearly $8 Trillion in Assets Have Vowed to Ditch Fossil Fuels

By Jake Johnson

While the COP24 climate talks are at risk of ending without a concrete plan of action thanks in large part to the Trump administration's commitment to a dirty energy agenda, environmental groups on Thursday celebrated a major milestone in the global movement to take down the fossil fuel industry after the number of public and private institutions that have vowed to divest from oil, gas and coal companies surpassed 1,000.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!