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Malé, the capital of Maldives. Shahee Ilyas / CC BY-SA 3.0

By Tim Radford

For atoll dwellers across much of the world, the island freshwater on which they depend may be in jeopardy within a couple of decades.

The combination of sea level rise and ever more extreme storm conditions—each a consequence of global warming and climate change—could make many of the world's coral atolls uninhabitable within one human generation.

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Wave-driven flooding and overwash on Roi-Namur Atoll. Peter Swarzenski / U.S. Geological Survey

A new study published in Science Advances Wednesday has bad news for the residents of low-lying atolls: If current greenhouse gas emission rates continue, climate change will render most of these islands uninhabitable by mid-century, not by the end of the century as previously believed.

This could turn the more than half a million people who live on atolls into climate refugees, The Guardian reported Wednesday.

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