Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

300 Million People Worldwide Could Suffer Yearly Flooding by 2050

Climate
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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The sun shines over the Southern Ocean in Antarctica. Rebecca Yale / Moment / Getty Images Plus

Atmospheric researchers have pinpointed the spot on Earth with the cleanest air. It's not in the midst of a remote jungle, nor on a deserted tropical island. Instead, the cleanest air in the world is in the air above the frigid Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Brazil burnt, logged and bulldozed a third of the area lost, with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Indonesia placing second and third. Brasil2 / Getty Images

Satellite data collated for the World Resources Institute (WRI) showed primal rainforest was lost across 38,000 square kilometers (14,500 square miles) globally — ruining habitats and releasing carbon once locked in wood into the atmosphere.

Read More Show Less
People sit in circles to observe social distance in Domino Park amid the coronavirus pandemic on May 21, 2020 in New York City. New research says preventative measures such as social distancing and wearing face masks should not be relaxed as temperatures warm up. Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images

Researchers have found that warm temperatures in the U.S. this summer are unlikely to stop the coronavirus that causes the infectious disease COVID-19, according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease.

Read More Show Less
Protesters gather to protest the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota by police, on May 27, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Jason Armond / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The glaring numbers that show how disproportionately racial minorities have been affected by the coronavirus and by police brutality go hand-in-hand. The two are byproducts of systemic racism that has kept people of color marginalized and contributed to a public health crisis, according to three prominent medical organizations — the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and American College of Physicians, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
In a series of major wins for climate campaigners, New York regulators and Cuomo have repeatedly blocked construction of the $1 billion Williams Pipeline. Michael Brochstein / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Jessica Corbett

With the nation focused on the coronavirus pandemic and protests against U.S. police brutality that have sprung up across the globe, the Trump administration continues to quietly attack federal policies that protect public health and the environment to limit the legal burdens faced by planet-wrecking fossil fuel companies.

Read More Show Less
Photo credit: Black Birders Week seeks to highlight the experiences of Black scientists and nature lovers. Chad Springer / Image Source / Getty Images

A video of an incident in Central Park last Monday, in which a white woman named Amy Cooper called the cops on African American birder Christian Cooper after he asked her to put her dog on a leash, went viral last week, raising awareness of the racism Black people face for simply trying to enjoy nature.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Nationwide states struggle to recruit, hire and train game wardens. Jason Erickson / Getty Images

By Jodi Helmer

In Georgia there are just 213 game wardens to enforce state fish and wildlife laws, investigate violations, assist with conservation efforts and collect data on wildlife and ecological changes across 16,000 miles of rivers and 37 million acres of public and private lands. Statewide 46 counties have no designated game warden at all. The shortage could lead to wildlife crimes going undetected.

Read More Show Less