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Which Countries Have Lost the Most to Sea Level Rise?

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The duel island nation of St. Kitts and Nevis has lost more than 25 percent of its land mass to sea level rise. Nesnad / CC BY-SA 3.0

Which countries are the biggest losers when it comes to sea level rise?

That's the question answered by data from the World Bank that shows the 37 countries that have lost land area from 1961 to 2017 to rising waters, The World Economic Forum reported last week.


The most dramatically impacted country was St. Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, which has shrunk 90 square kilometers (approximately 34.7 square miles), more than a quarter of its land area, since 1961.

Ecuador came next with a loss of 10.29 percent of its land area, at 28,480 square kilometers (approximately 10,996.2 square miles). Vietnam was third with a loss of 4.74 percent of its total area.

The rest of the top 10 land losers lost less than two percent. They were, in order, Bulgaria (1.87 percent), the Seychelles (1.09 percent), Cuba (0.89 percent), Sweden (0.73 percent), Iraq (0.70 percent), Azerbaijan (0.67 percent), El Salvador (0.62 percent) and Japan (0.58 percent).

The loss was mostly due to sea level rise and erosion which can be sped up by extreme weather events like hurricanes, which can rapidly erode coasts, inundate wetlands and move beaches with high winds and waves.

In the case of St. Kitts and Nevis, for example, Hurricanes Luis, Georges and Lenny wreaked havoc in 1995, 1998 and 1999, respectively.

Some of the countries already losing land to sea level rise are also projected to be among the most impacted by 2100 if we continue to emit climate change-causing greenhouse gasses at current rates.

Climate Central data published in 2014 calculated which countries would be most exposed to sea level rise and coastal flooding by 2100 by number and percentage of people impacted.

When it came to both total numbers likely to be affected and the percentage of the population likely to be impacted, Vietnam, which has already lost the fourth greatest percentage of its land, came in second place, with 23.407 million people, or 26 percent of its population, impacted.

Japan, which was number 10 for current losses, came in third for total population to be impacted (12.751 million people) and fourth for percentage of its population to be impacted (10 percent).

China is slated to see the largest total number of people affected at 50.465 million and the Netherlands the greatest percentage of its population at 47 percent.

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