Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Climate Change: Study Maps Those At Greatest Risk From Cyclones And Rising Seas

Date:
March 28, 2007
Source:
International Institute for Environment and Development
Summary:
The first global study to identify populations at greatest risk from rising sea levels and more intense cyclones linked to climate change will be published next month in the peer-reviewed journal Environment and Urbanization. The research shows that 634 million people -- one tenth of the global population -- live in coastal areas that lie within just ten metres above sea level.

"Of the more than 180 countries with populations in the low-elevation coastal zone, 130 of them -- about 70% -- have their largest urban area extending into that zone," adds Bridget Anderson, research associate at Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network.
Credit: CIESIN

The first global study to identify populations at greatest risk from rising sea levels and more intense cyclones linked to climate change will be published next month in the peer-reviewed journal Environment and Urbanization.

The research shows that 634 million people — one tenth of the global population — live in coastal areas that lie within just ten metres above sea level.

It calls for action to limit the effects of climate change, to help people migrate away from risk and to modify urban settlements to reduce their vulnerability. But it warns that this will require enforceable regulations and economic incentives, both of which depend on political will, funding and human capital.

Key findings of the study by Gordon McGranahan of the International Institute for Environment and Development (UK) and his colleagues, Deborah Balk and Bridget Anderson, at the City University of New York and Columbia University, are that:

  • Nearly two-thirds of urban settlements with more than 5 million inhabitants are at least partially in the 0-10 metre zone.
  • On average, 14 percent of people in the least developed countries live in the zone (compared to 10 percent in OECD countries).
  • 21 percent of the urban populations of least developed nations are in the zone (11 percent in OECD countries).
  • About 75% of people in the zone are in Asia. 21 nations have more than half of their population in the zone (16 are small island states).
  • Poor countries — and poor communities within them — are most at risk.

The study will be published on 14 April along with papers that focus on specific cities, including Cotonou (Benin), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Mumbai (India) and Shanghai (China).

"Urban development in the coastal zone brings multiple risks," says McGranahan. "It exposes people to seaward hazards such as storms, flooding and cyclones, and it can damage sensitive ecosystems including those such as mangrove forests that protect the coastline."

"One in ten people, and one out of every eight urban dwellers, live on the coast no more than ten metres above sea level, but that number is increasing," says McGranahan. "People are running towards risk, particularly in China but also in other parts of the world such as Bangladesh, where more 40% of the land area is within ten metres above sea level."

China's economic boom has been driven by policies that promote coastal development and which have encouraged one of the largest coastward migrations ever. The study says that unless action is taken that China's economic success will be placed at risk.

Last month the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) latest report warned that sea levels could rise by tens of centimetres this century, making coastal populations more vulnerable to flooding and storm surges. It also predicted more intense tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes).

"The IPCC is aware that there are high population densities in coastal areas, but it has not yetrecognised the links to urbanisation, and the implicationsfor adaptation to climate change," says co-author Deborah Balk, the acting associate director of the Institute for Demographic Research at the City University of New York.

The new study highlights the importance of "the three Ms": mitigation, migration and modification.

"It is too late to rely solely on a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate climate change, although this is clearly an imperative," says McGranahan. "Migration away from the zone at risk will be necessary but costly and hard to implement, so coastal settlements will also need to be modified to protect residents."

"Of the more than 180 countries with populations in the low-elevation coastal zone, 130 of them — about 70% — have their largest urban area extending into that zone," adds Bridget Anderson, research associate at Columbia University's Center for International Earth Science Information Network.

"Furthermore, the world's large cities — those with more than 5 million residents — have, on average, one-fifth of their population and one-sixth of their land area within this coastal zone."

Many of the countries with the most people in the 0-10 metre zone are large Asian nations with densely populated river deltas, while many nations with the greatest proportion of their people in the zone are small island states.

"Climate change is not a natural disaster but has largely been caused by wealthy countries emitting greenhouse gases during their industrialisation," says McGranahan. "Yet the poorest countries that have contributed least to the problem are most vulnerable to its effects. It is therefore incumbent on rich nations to help poorer ones to adapt to the changes ahead."

McGranahan and colleagues analysed the GRUMP (Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project) databases of fine-scale information on population and urban extent along with elevation data derived from NASA's Satellite Radar Topography Mission, and World Bank data on national income.

"Carefully combining spatial data layers allows us to calculate the distribution of each country’s population and urban settlements by elevation along a narrow coastal strip of land in most places," notes Balk. "These kinds of estimates are impossible to derive from national-level data."

"The ability to map both human activities and environmental conditions globally has revolutionary possibilities – and is very timely given the emergence of global environmental challenges such as climate change."

Between 1994 and 2004, about one-third of the 1,562 flood disasters, half of the 120,00 people killed and 98% of the two million people affected by flood disasters were in Asia.

Between 1990 and 2000, the populations in the 0-10 metre zones of Bangladesh and China grew at more than twice the national population growth rate.

The ten countries with the largest number of people living within ten metres of the average sea level are: China (143,888,000); India (63,188,000); Bangladesh (62,524,000); Vietnam (43,051,000); Indonesia (41,610,000); Japan (30,477,000); Egypt (25,655,000); United States (22,859,000); Thailand (16,468,000); and the Philippines (13,329,000).

The ten countries with the largest share of their population living within ten metres of the average sea level are: Bahamas (88%); Suriname (76%); Netherlands (74%); Vietnam (55%); Guyana (55%); Bangladesh (46%); Djibouti (41%); Belize (40%); Egypt (38%); and the Gambia (38%).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by International Institute for Environment and Development. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

International Institute for Environment and Development. "Climate Change: Study Maps Those At Greatest Risk From Cyclones And Rising Seas." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070328093605.htm>.
International Institute for Environment and Development. (2007, March 28). Climate Change: Study Maps Those At Greatest Risk From Cyclones And Rising Seas. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070328093605.htm
International Institute for Environment and Development. "Climate Change: Study Maps Those At Greatest Risk From Cyclones And Rising Seas." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070328093605.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Change of Diet Helps Crocodile Business

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 16, 2014) Crocodile farming has been a challenge in Zimbabwe in recent years do the economic collapse and the financial crisis. But as Ciara Sutton reports one of Europe's biggest suppliers of skins to the luxury market has come up with an unusual survival strategy - vegetarian food. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 15, 2014) Pennsylvania-based Schramm is incorporating modern technology in its next generation oil-drigging rigs, making them smaller, safer and smarter. Ernest Scheyder reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins