Almost 36 Million Indians Face Threat Of Annual Floods By 2050

Residential houses submerged in floodwaters following heavy rainfall are seen at a town in Shantou

Residential houses submerged in floodwaters following heavy rainfall are seen at a town in Shantou

Climate change will put three times more people at risk of coastal flooding by 2050 than previously thought, according to a study published on Tuesday, with swathes of Asia and cities in North America and Europe all vulnerable to rising seas.

The new numbers far surpass the previous estimate of 80 million. "Every decade counts in preparing for sea-level rise". It increases the likelihood of coastal flooding, which can damage infrastructure, destroy crops and threaten entire cities.

The paper's authors - New Jersey-based nonprofit Climate Central's Scott A Kulp and Benjamin H Strauss - developed a more accurate method of estimating the effects of sea level rise, and found that about 150 million people are now living on land that may be below the high-tide line by midcentury.

The threat that advancing seas will overwhelm the ability of countries to build coastal defences and force many millions of people to migrate has always been regarded as one of the most potentially destabilising impacts of the climate crisis. In those regions, 54 million more people will be affected than previously thought, bringing the total to 237 million people.

"We don't know whether today's coastal defences will be sufficient for tomorrow's sea levels", Strauss said. Jakarta, which sits on the island Java, is the fastest sinking city in the world. That means the method can overestimate elevation levels in places like forests or cities.

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It does so because it uses more variables - vegetation cover, population indices - to estimate the actual land surface and more sophisticated modelling techniques, claim the authors Scott Kulp & Benjamin Strauss, of Climate Centre, an independent organisation of scientists and journalists working on climate change.

"As the tideline rises higher than the ground people call home, nations will increasingly confront questions about whether, how much, and how long coastal defences can protect them".

By 2050, land that is now home to about 300 million people will fall below the elevation of the average annual coastal flood - meaning they could face severe floods at least once a year.

The study found that 300 million people are now living on land that is likely to flood at least once a year on average by mid-century without adequate sea defences, even if governments manage to make sharp cuts in emissions.

And the new report is still on the optimistic side - it assumes countries meet the deadline for emissions cuts outlined in the Paris agreement. "Our data improve the picture, but there is still a great need for governments and aerospace companies to produce and release more accurate elevation data".

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