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Population Threatened by Climate Change-Triggered Flooding about Three Times Higher than Previously Thought

And if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue unabated and Antarctic ice melts more in a worst-case scenario, around 500 million people could be

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Population, Climate, Flooding
Cars drive through a flooded road at the entrance to Long Beach Island in Ship Bottom, N.J. on Oct. 11, 2019. VOA

The number of people threatened by climate change-triggered flooding is about three times higher than previously thought, a new study says. But it’s not because of more water. Population.

It’s because the land, especially in Asia and the developing world, is several feet lower than what space-based radar has calculated, according to a study in the journal Nature Communications Tuesday.

So instead of 80 million people living in low-lying areas that would flood annually by 2050 as the world warms, this new study finds the population at risk is closer to 300 million people.

And if emissions of heat-trapping gases continue unabated and Antarctic ice melts more in a worst-case scenario, around 500 million people could be at risk by the end of the century, according to the study by Climate Central , a New Jersey based non-profit of scientists and journalists.

Population, Climate, Flooding
It’s because the land, especially in Asia and the developing world, is several feet lower than what space-based radar has calculated, according to a study. Pixabay

Space-based radar says 170 million are at risk in that scenario.

For big picture global mapping of flooding threats, the go-to technology for elevation is NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission . But that doesn’t accurately show ground, instead mistaking rooftops and tree canopies for ground with an average error of 6.5 feet (2 meters), said Climate Central chief executive officer Ben Strauss, a scientist who studies sea level rise.

For the United States, much of Europe and Australia, this is not a problem because those areas use airborne lidar radar, which is more accurate about true elevation. But in flood prone Asia and other places that’s not an option, Strauss said.

So Climate Central used the shuttle radar, artificial intelligence and 23 different variables to create a computer model that is more accurate in globally mapping elevation, Strauss said. They then tested it against the airplane-generated data in the United States and Australia and found this computer model was accurate, he said.

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“This is a far greater problem than we understood,” Strauss said. “Far more people live in risky places today than we thought and the problem only multiplies in the future.”

He said the new model found “a huge difference” in elevation in places such as Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Jakarta and Mumbai.

Five outside sea level rise experts said the study highlighted a problem with current data, especially in Asia.

“This study represents very significant progress in the understanding of the risk which climate change-related sea level will cause for hundreds of million of people before the end of this century,” said Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of the Universite catholique de Louvain in Belgium.  “If hundreds or even tens of millions of people are flooded in Asia or Africa, it will create social and economic disruptions on a huge scale.”

Population, Climate, Flooding

So instead of 80 million people living in low-lying areas that would flood annually by 2050 as the world warms, this new study finds the population at risk is closer to 300 million people. Pixabay

University of Colorado’s Steve Nerem said the problem is real, but he isn’t sold on the new model yet, partly because it is based on the shuttle radar to begin with.

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It does highlight an issue that needs to be fixed, said Katy Serafin at the University of Florida. “The longer we wait to address this, the less time we will have to develop adaptive and sustainable solutions to coastal flooding.” (VOA)

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More than 11,000 Scientists Declare ‘Climate Emergency’

The study, called the “World Scientists' Warning of a Climate Emergency,” was led by ecologists Bill Ripple and Christopher Wolf of Oregon State University

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Scientists, Climate, Emergency
FILE - An aerial view shows a Japan Self-Defense Force helicopter flying over residential areas flooded by the Chikuma river following Typhoon Hagibis in Nagano, central Japan, Oct. 13, 2019, in this photo taken by Kyodo. VOA

A global team of more than 11,000 scientists is warning that the planet “clearly and unequivocally faces a climate emergency.”

In a report published Tuesday in the journal Bioscience warns in no uncertain terms that the world would face “untold human suffering” if it does not make deep and lasting shifts in human activities that contribute to climate change.

The study, called the “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” was led by ecologists Bill Ripple and Christopher Wolf of Oregon State University, and climate scientist William Moomaw of Tufts University, along with scientists from universities in South Africa and Australia. The signatories to the report represent several fields of study and come from 150 countries.

“Despite 40 years of global climate negotiations, with few exceptions, we have generally conducted business as usual and have largely failed to address this predicament,” the study says. “Climate change has arrived and is accelerating faster than many scientists expected.”

Scientists, Climate, Emergency
In a report published Tuesday in the journal Bioscience warns in no uncertain terms that the world would face “untold human suffering” if it does not make deep and lasting shifts. Pixabay

It is the first time a large group of scientists have collectively used the world “emergency” in reference to climate change.

The report identified six areas that need to be addressed immediately.

They include:

  • Cutting fossil fuel use by imposing carbon taxes and using energy more efficiently
  • Stabilizing global population growth by strengthening women’s rights and making family planning services “available to all people”
  • Cutting emissions of pollutants like soot and ethane
  • Moving to a more plant-based diet
  • Preventing the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of forests
  • Moving the global economic focus away from growth of wealth to sustainability and income equality

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The scientists said it will most likely take strong actions by the public to move politicians toward adopting lasting policy changes.

“We believe that the prospects will be greatest if decision-makers and all of humanity promptly respond to this warning and declaration of a climate emergency, and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home,” the paper said. (VOA)