Developing Countries Could Suffer Most From Sea-Level Rise
Developing countries will suffer most from sea-level rise resulting from global warming, with potentially hundreds of millions of people in developing country coastal regions being forced to relocate, according to a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD).
Of the 300 million people who could be forced to relocate by rapid sea-level rise, 80 percent live in the developing world, including 200 million in Asia (90 million in China alone); 17 million in the Middle East and North Africa; 11 million in Sub-Saharan Africa; and 8 million in Latin America and the Caribbean, says David Wheeler, a senior fellow at the CGD.
Wheeler says that the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), recently released in Paris, strengthens the scientific consensus about the threat from global warming if nations do not curb greenhouse gas emissions. According to Wheeler, the IPCC’s projected sea level rise of 0.2-0.6 meters by 2100 is conservative, because it excludes the possibility of future rapid changes in the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, although recent scientific evidence suggests that such changes have begun. In the case of Greenland, if its ice cap disappears, it could add seven meters to sea level.
The argument is about timing, not results, and some scientists think that rapid melting will occur in this century. Wheeler says that disintegration of the West Antarctica ice sheet would add another seven meters.
Before joining CGD in December, Wheeler was part of a team at the World Bank that studied the likely impact of rapid sea level rise on human settlements and economic activity. The projection of 300 million people who could be dislocated, based on the latest digital map of global population, includes all coastal populations living in areas less than five meters above sea level. Any significant sea-level rise will lead to more severe flooding in these areas from storm surges and abnormally high tides.
Wheeler says that there is a significant risk that global warming will raise the sea level by one to three meters in this century and that, according to the World Bank Study, even a one-meter rise will force 60 million people to relocate.