According to a new study, rising sea levels, driven by climate change, could impact three times more people by 2050 than previously thought. Coastal regions are at extreme risk with some facing almost complete submersion in only thirty years.
The research was produced by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based science organization, and published in the journal Nature Communications. The researchers behind the study, Scott A. Kulp and Benjamin H. Strauss, developed a more accurate way of calculating land elevation based on satellite readings, finding that previous estimates were far too optimistic, according to The New York Times. The new findings reveal that approximately 150 million people are currently living on land that will be below the high-tide line by mid-century.
The researchers found that standard elevation measurements using satellites struggle to differentiate the true ground level from the tops of trees or buildings. So, they used artificial intelligence to determine the error rate and correct for it, according to the The New York Times. The study showcases the likes of Southern Vietnam, Bangkok, Shanghai, Mumbai, Alexandria, and Basra, comparing previous projections of submerged land by 2050 to updated ones. The differences are striking. For example, southern Vietnam, an area containing almost a quarter of the country’s population, will be almost entirely inundated. These projections also don’t account for future population growth or land lost to coastal erosion, so impacts may be even more severe.
As climate change-induced flooding redefines the world’s geographies, the socio-economic, migratory, and political stability of the most at-risk locations will take massive blows. Economic strongholds, such as Shanghai, Mumbai, and Bangkok, may well be entirely wiped out, which will have dire consequences on not just their respective nations, but the world. Entire populations will be displaced, mass migration will ensue, and this could trigger regional conflicts between disparate groups of people, especially in places with pre-existing political instability.
Urgent action is needed to mitigate the inevitable impacts of sea level rise. Countries must quickly invest and develop protective measures, such as seawalls and other barriers. However, these measures can only protect to an extent. According to The New York Times, countries should start preparing now for more citizens to relocate internally.
All images via The New York Times