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  • Which Countries are Most at Risk of Rising Sea Levels?

Which Countries are Most at Risk of Rising Sea Levels?

Aug 20 2015 Read 16085 Times

If the threat of climate change wasn’t grave enough, new data released by Climate Central offers a foreboding forecast of the future of the world’s population and how it will be affected by rising sea levels. Assuming we continue to emit harmful heat-trapping gases at the same rate as we currently do, 147-216 million people worldwide could be at risk of coastal flooding by the end of the century.

Even more worryingly, the sources used to collect the data (both US-based and global) have been deemed unreliable, meaning the actual figure could be as much as three times greater. In real terms, this means that the habitable regions of 650 million people (not far from 10% of the global population) could be underwater by 2100.

The Top 20

By far the biggest at-risk continent is Asia, with all seven top spots (by population) on the list being occupied by Asian countries and 12 of the top 20 in total. China, in particular, account for a hefty chunk of the endangered people, with around 50 million people expected to be at risk.

Below is a table charting the top 20 countries most at risk of becoming submerged by the rising sea levels, with both the number of people in danger and the percentage of the country as a whole.

Ranking

Country

Persons at risk (million)

% of Population

1

China

50.5

4%

2

Vietnam

23.4

26%

3

Japan

12.8

10%

4

India

12.6

1%

5

Bangladesh

10.2

7%

6

Indonesia

10.2

4%

7

Thailand

8.2

12%

8

Netherlands

7.8

47%

9

Philippines

6.2

7%

10

Myanmar

4.7

9%

11

USA

3.1

1%

12

UK

2.6

4%

13

Brazil

1.7

1%

14

Germany

1.7

2%

15

France

1.3

2%

16

Malaysia

1.2

4%

17

Taiwan

1

4%

18

South Korea

1

2%

19

Nigeria

0.8

1%

20

Italy

0.8

1%

 

As you can see, Asian countries most definitely bear the brunt of the exposure, though on sheer percentage of population alone, Netherlands are clear frontrunners. Almost half of the population will be underwater by 2100 if emission trends continue.

What Can Be Done?

Most obviously, our attitudes towards the burning of fossil fuels and the emission of heat-trapping gases needs to change drastically. This data was collected using a conglomeration of census data and topographical mapping tools from both the USA and global sources, but scientists worry that the margin for error is great enough to allow the real figures to be far higher. Limiting our consumption of harmful materials and switching to more sustainable and clean energy means is imperative if we are to avoid long-term submersion.

On a more immediate level, various flooding prediction techniques and contingency plans are in place across the globe. The UK, which is the 12th most at risk in terms of population and 15th most at risk in terms of percentage, has already experienced the dangers of flooding as recently as 2014, when torrential rains and extreme weather devastated swathes of the country. The article Predicting and Mitigating the Risk of Floods talks in more detail about the various techniques utilised to try and avoid repeat flooding in the future.

Image Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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