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Flooded future: global vulnerability to sea level rise worse than previously understood


As a result of heat-trapping pollution from human activities, rising sea levels could within three decades push chronic floods higher than land currently home to 300 million people.

By 2100, areas now home to 200 million people could fall permanently below the high tide line. The new figures are the result of an improved global elevation dataset produced by Climate Central (CoastalDEM) using machine learning, and revealing that coastal elevations are significantly lower than previously understood across wide areas. The threat is concentrated in coastal Asia and could have profound economic and political consequences within the lifetimes of people alive today.

Adaptive measures such as construction of levees and other defenses or relocation to higher ground could lessen these threats. In fact, based on CoastalDEM, roughly 110 million people currently live on land below high tide line. This population is almost certainly protected to some degree by existing coastal defenses, which may or may not be adequate for future sea levels.

Findings are documented in a new peer-reviewed paper in the journal Nature Communications.

Reference information

Climate Central website

Published in Climate-ADAPT Mar 17 2020   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Sep 10 2022

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