According to a new study, the number of people who may be affected by rising sea levels by 2050 may be three times higher than previously thought.
Scientists at Climate Central, a research and advocacy group, used a new digital model for a more accurate estimation based on satellite readings and artificial intelligence.
The study found that 300 million people currently live in low laying areas that are likely to flood at least once a year by 2050 – a mammoth increase from NASA’s previous estimate of 80 million at risk.
Benjamin Strauss, Climate Central’s chief scientist and CEO of Climate Central, said: “To us it’s a staggering difference. It’s a completely new perspective on the scale of this threat.”
The experts’ findings, published in Nature Communications on October 29, shows areas of Asia as the highest risk, with the possible effects already impacting Indonesia, as the government announced plans to relocate the capital city from Jakarta, an area increasingly vulnerable to flooding.
By 2050, #SeaLevelRise will push average annual coastal floods higher than land that is now home to 300 million people, according to a Climate Central study published today in @NatureComms Full report on the findings at: https://t.co/GHJR5jTRca #ClimateChange pic.twitter.com/r6llU7AEm3
— Climate Central (@ClimateCentral) October 29, 2019
According to the report: “In the coming decades, the greatest effects [of sea level rise] will be felt in Asia, thanks to the number of people living in the continent’s low-lying coastal areas.
“Mainland China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand are home to the most people on land projected to be below average annual coastal flood levels by 2050.”
Previous estimates were made using satellite data, which the Guardian reports ‘overestimated the altitude of land’ because of tall buildings and trees. Recent findings, however, used artificial data to compensate for such misreading.
The research team of scientists were shocked by the magnitude of what’s in store for our planet.
Scott Kulp, the lead author of the study and a senior scientist at Climate Central, said: “These assessments show the potential of climate change to reshape cities, economies, coastlines and entire global regions within our lifetimes.”
Kulp added: “As the tideline rises higher than the ground people call home, nations will increasingly confront questions about whether, how much and how long coastal defenses can protect them.”
Strauss explained that a World Bank study using the old data placed damages of $1 trillion per year by mid-century.
This would need updating to reflect the more recent findings, he said.
“The need for coastal defenses and higher planning for higher seas is much greater than we thought if we are to avoid economic harm and instability,” Strauss added.
“The silver lining to our research: although many more people are threatened than we thought, the benefits of action are greater.”
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