Climate Change Study Maps Those At Greatest Risk Worldwide
From the International Institute for Environment and Development website
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. <http://www.iied.org/human/eandu/eandu_details.html>
The research shows that 634 million people — one tenth of the global population — live in coastal areas that lie within just ten meters 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 meter 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.
McGranahan and colleagues analyzed 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.”
For more information, see: http://www.iied.org/mediaroom/releases/070328coastal.html
USA 10-meter Low Elevation Coastal Zone and population density map (credit: CIESIN)