Over 200 percent more people will soon be in jeopardy from increasing ocean levels than what has been previously estimated. The recent data suggests that areas which are currently occupied by around 300 million individuals will be forced to endure regular annual flooding by the year 2050 if people don’t severely reduce carbon emissions and fortify defenses along the coasts.
The old estimates that assumed just 80 million people would be affected is based on satellite information which miscalculated land altitudes because of trees and high buildings. The new data is derived from artificial intelligence that has been used to correct the errors.
Experts are amazed by the extent of the misreadings from the old NASA evaluations. “These assessments show the potential of climate change to reshape cities, economies, coastlines, and entire global regions within our lifetimes,” explains Scott Kulp, senior scientist at Climate Central and head author of the study. “As the tideline rises higher than the ground people call home, nations will increasingly confront questions about whether, how much, and how long coastal defenses can protect them.”
Many regions in Asia will suffer the most drastic changes, with estimated figures of affected people rising by several hundred percent depending on the area. The updated calculations indicate that roughly 23 million people in Indonesia will feel the impact of rising sea levels, an increase of nearly 400 percent from the old figures.
“An incredible, disproportionate amount of human development is on flat, low-lying land near the sea. We are really set up to suffer,” says Climate Central’s Chief Executive Officer and head scientist, Benjamin Strauss.
The new data may still be inaccurate as the calculations are based on the assumption that countries will be following the guidelines of the Paris agreement – which they aren’t. Scientists believe that up to 640 million people could end up suffering from elevated sea levels by the end of the century, and the cost of the damage caused will run into the trillions.
“The need for coastal defenses and higher planning for higher seas is much greater than we thought if we are to avoid economic harm and instability,” says Strauss. “The silver lining to our research: although many more people are threatened than we thought, the benefits of action are greater.”