A new study, published in Nature Communications, analysed the sea level rises and predicted future ones. Due to climate change, the sea level rose by 11-16 cm in the 20th century, but by the end of 21th century the rise is likely to be between 60 and 200 cm. Based on this fact, the authors came to a shocking conclusion: the sea level rises will lead to land that is currently home to 300 million people to be flooded annually. Furthermore, by 2100 the land where 200 million people live may be under the high tide line. These new estimates are three times as high as past ones, due to more detailed assessment conducted.
Please also read: Time to retreat from the coastline?
Sea level rise is a critical threat to a lot of the world’s population as an disproportionally high number of people live close to the coast. Many of the world’s largest cities lie close to the sea, such as New York, London, Dhaka, Shanghai and others. The countries most threatened by the rising sea levels are all in Asia: China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam and Indonesia.
Climate refugees because of sea level rise
Sea walls, levees and other flood-protection structures already protect many of the 100 million people living below the current sea level. However, with such a sea rise, these structures will not suffice. Particularly people in less-developed countries, such as Bangladesh, will be badly exposed to more flooding. This might lead to an increase in climate refugees – people who must leave their homes because of the changing climate. This is already happening – 2 500 people have already fled from Carteret Islands, Papua New Guinea, because of the rising sea level. However, international law does not recognise climate refugees yet, therefore they cannot obtain asylum.
Sea levels are rising rapidly because of the melting ice. Antarctic ice is shrinking rapidly, with its mass loss tripling between 2016 and 2017, comparing to previous 10 years. Similarly, Greenland is rapidly losing its ice cover as well.