300 Million People In Danger Of Losing Their Homes Due To Rising Sea Levels

Coastal flooding caused by rising sea levels will affect at least 300 million people over the next 30 years, according to a new study. That figure is three times higher than had previously been forecast.

According to HuffPost:

“According to the findings published in the scientific journal Nature on Tuesday, roughly 300 million people are at risk of losing their homes by 2050 due to rising sea levels, largely in some of the most densely populated regions of the developing world.

“This grim forecast by Climate Central, a New Jersey-based nonprofit of scientists and journalists, bases its information off new artificial intelligence and satellite data that it says provide a more accurate reading of global land elevation.”

The amount of flooding that Climate Central expects Bangkok to experience by 2050 (top), compared to what was previously forecast (bottom) (Via ClimateCentral.org)


The alarming new prediction from Climate Central, a New Jersey-based nonprofit of scientists and journalists, is based on artificial intelligence and satellite data that provide a more accurate picture of land elevation across the world.


Ben Strauss, chief scientist and CEO of Climate Central, explained the reason for the revised prediction:

“Sea-level projections have not changed. But when we use our new elevation data, we find far more people living in vulnerable areas than we previously understood.”

Since this prediction is based on elevation instead of flooding models, it doesn’t account for things like coastal defenses such as seawalls or levees.

Previous models, such as one that used data from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) project, measured land elevation, but was skewed because it included things such as treetops and buildings.

In a press release issued with the new study, Climate Central announced:

“SRTM data generally overestimate elevation, particularly in densely forested and built-up areas.

“Globally, the average overestimate appears to be roughly six feet. These values match or exceed most of the highest sea level rise projections for the entire century.

Based on the SRTM data, an estimate was developed that said 80 million people were at significant risk from coastal flooding. But the new research from Climate Central means that over three times as many people could be impacted by rising sea levels.

In the U.S. the new projections are bad news for several states:

“Places like Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey and New York are expected to face devastating flood levels, though this has been long known and, in some extreme cases, already seen. In parts of the world that can’t afford such precise scientific measurements, global flood forecasts were less accurate.”

While the news from the study is indeed dire, Bernadette Woods Placky, chief meteorologist with Climate Central, explained that the study’s predictions will only happen if the world fails to take climate change seriously and reduce greenhouse gasses:

“I kind of compare it to a diet. Even if you choose to eat healthy, it’s going to take a while to see those impacts on your body.”

The prospect of 300 million people being left without homes and financially devastated would have a huge economic impact around the world, climatologist Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium, noted:

“If hundreds or even tens of millions of people are flooded in Asia or Africa, it will create social and economic disruptions on a huge scale.”

For now, the clock is ticking and the time to act has arrived.


Featured Image Via Wikimedia Commons 

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Andrew Bradford

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