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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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