Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

300 Million People Worldwide Could Suffer Yearly Flooding by 2050

Climate
300 Million People Worldwide Could Suffer Yearly Flooding by 2050
High-tide flooding in Ho Chi Minh City, which could be largely underwater by 2050, according to a new study. Vietnam News Agency / AFP via Getty Images

Sea level rise could impact three times more people worldwide than previously estimated, new research published in Nature Communications Tuesday has found.


If greenhouse gas emissions are not reduced, 300 million people could face a once-a-year flooding event by 2050, The Guardian reported, far higher than the current estimate of 80 million. By the same year, the homes of 150 million people could be permanently below the high-tide line. The figures are even higher for 2100. Depending on how successfully emissions are reduced, yearly coastal flooding could impact between 280 and 640 million people by century's end, and between 140 and 520 million could see their homes permanently swallowed.


"These assessments show the potential of climate change to reshape cities, economies, coastlines and entire global regions within our lifetimes," lead study author and Climate Central senior scientist Scott Kulp told The Guardian. "As the tideline rises higher than the ground people call home, nations will increasingly confront questions about whether, how much and how long coastal defences can protect them."

The higher figures come from a new model developed by the Climate Central team called CoastalDEM. While NASA satellite data includes the tops of buildings and trees in its elevation measurements, CoastalDEM uses machine learning to correct for this, leading to more accurate elevation readings, especially in the densely-populated areas most at risk for sea level rise.

"For all of the critical research that's been done on climate change and sea-level projections, it turns out that for most of the global coast we didn't know the height of the ground beneath our feet," study co-author Dr. Benjamin Strauss told CBS News. "Our data improve the picture, but there is still a great need for governments and aerospace companies to produce and release more accurate elevation data. Lives and livelihoods depend on it."

The impacts of sea level rise will be most keenly felt in Asia, the study found. More than 70 percent of the people likely to be impacted live in China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan.

In some of those countries, sea level rise could sink major cities by mid-century, as The New York Times pointed out.

According to the new estimates, Vietnam's southern half will be largely underwater at high tide, including most of Ho Chi Minh City. Much of Bangkok, Shanghai and Mumbai would also be inundated.

The swallowing of major world cities has global implications. For example, Basra, Iraq's second largest city, could also be underwater by 2050. This would further destabilize the region, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General John Castellaw told The New York Times.

"So this is far more than an environmental problem," he said. "It's a humanitarian, security and possibly military problem too."

But Climate Central director of communications Peter Girard said that the study's alarming findings could actually help avert a worst-case scenario.

"As shocking as these findings might be, there is a silver lining: They give us the knowledge we need to take action in time to protect millions, and to avoid the economic and political upheaval that a climate disaster on this scale could bring," he said, according to CBS News.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that between 280 and 640 people could experience yearly flooding by 2100 and between 140 and 520 could see their homes permanently inundated by that date. It has been changed to reflect the fact that it is actually between 280 and 640 million people who will experience yearly flooding and between 140 and 520 million who could permanently lose their homes.

A dugong, also called a sea cow, swims with golden pilot jacks near Marsa Alam, Egypt, Red Sea. Alexis Rosenfeld / Getty Images

In 2010, world leaders agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's biodiversity over the next decade. By 2020, none of them had been met. Now, the question is whether the world can do any better once new targets are set during the meeting of the UN Convention on Biodiversity in Kunming, China later this year.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

President Joe Biden signs executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Jan. 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. Jabin Botsford / The Washington Post via Getty Images

By Andrew Rosenberg

The first 24 hours of the administration of President Joe Biden were filled not only with ceremony, but also with real action. Executive orders and other directives were quickly signed. More actions have followed. All consequential. Many provide a basis for not just undoing actions of the previous administration, but also making real advances in public policy to protect public health, safety, and the environment.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Melting ice forms a lake on free-floating ice jammed into the Ilulissat Icefjord during unseasonably warm weather on July 30, 2019 near Ilulissat, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

A first-of-its-kind study has examined the satellite record to see how the climate crisis is impacting all of the planet's ice.

Read More Show Less
Probiotic rich foods. bit245 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Ana Maldonado-Contreras

Takeaways

  • Your gut is home to trillions of bacteria that are vital for keeping you healthy.
  • Some of these microbes help to regulate the immune system.
  • New research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, shows the presence of certain bacteria in the gut may reveal which people are more vulnerable to a more severe case of COVID-19.

You may not know it, but you have an army of microbes living inside of you that are essential for fighting off threats, including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Michael Mann photo inset by Joshua Yospyn.

By Jeff Masters, Ph.D.

The New Climate War: the fight to take back our planet is the latest must-read book by leading climate change scientist and communicator Michael Mann of Penn State University.

Read More Show Less