Coastal predictions are getting worse and worse, according to a study released on Oct. 29, “New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding” by Scott A. Kulp & Benjamin H. Strauss in Nature Communications volume 10, Article number: 4844 (2019).
The authors show that even under a low emissions scenario (and good luck with that one, when emissions are rising every year), about 190 million people currently live below what will be the high tide levels of the year 2100.
Under a high emissions scenario, the number of people living today under the 2100 high tide level rises to 630 million people.
Hundreds of millions more people today live close enough above that high tide level to be in danger. These projections don’t take into consideration the ravages of future erosion as the water advances or the possible collapse of coastal defenses, which already protect some 110 million people living below the high tide level (as in New Orleans and much of the Netherlands).
The study finds that “more than 70% of the total number of people worldwide currently living on implicated land are in eight Asian countries: China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Japan.” Although devastating for those countries, is that better news for the rest of the world? Hardly, because those Asian countries are already overcrowded. As oceans rise, those hundreds of millions of people will seek to emigrate elsewhere.
The new analysis shows oceans rising by about 2 meters in the next 80 years: today’s children will likely see this happen. Does anyone wonder why Greta Thunberg is upset with today’s “world leaders”?
It is pretty obvious that when hordes of desperate people flooded out of Bangladesh and Vietnam push up the Ganges and Mekong Rivers and try to enter India and China, trouble will result on a scale that makes the current migrations out of the Middle East and Latin America look like a warm-up exercise.
One of the accompanying maps shows “Current population on land below projected mean higher high water level in 2100 assuming intermediate carbon emissions (RCP 4.5) and relatively stable Antarctic ice sheets (sea level model K14)”:
Yellow shows highest numbers of people affected, with the scale ranging from 1 to 100,000,000. Where will all the forced emigrants go? The two countries with the fewest “exposed,” Finland and Congo, in dark blue on the map, seem unlikely destinations. The US’s yellow-green is nothing to boast about either; dislocations will occur and Florida, where most people live along the shores, will lost its status as a highly populated political swing state, since much of it will be underwater.
Today’s excuses — reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be inconvenient for our life styles or would cut into a few industries’ profits (download RAN’s “Banking on Climate Change” to see banks that do the most to finance fossil fuel industries) — will soon look idiotic on the scale of global inconvenience that is already underway.
If people can’t control their greenhouse gas emissions, can they control their rate of reproduction? Purposefully and peacefully reducing the globe’s population by 630 million before 2100 seems far preferable to having that many people forced to relocate within a shrinking land mass that is already occupied by people who will defend their own space.
You’ve probably been to Cape May County NJ. The news is not good. Here is a map from NOAA’s sea level rise map viewer showing the effect of a rise in high tides of 6 feet (thus, about 6 inches less than the projected 2 meters). Deep blue shows areas substantially under water; light blue shallower water; but all blue areas will be uninhabitable. Cape May Point will be gone (following South Cape May, which was washed away in 1944), and the Atlantic beach will be about where today’s Garden State Parkway is.