Report: Flooded Future: Global vulnerability to sea level rise worse than previously understood

LaRae Long Global Citizen, Trendspotting, Earth Systems Science, Latest Headlines

“This revealing new research by Climate Central using an advanced form of mapping global sea levels has discovered that the NASA  Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) has led to under-estimating risks of sea level rise, particularly in many Asian countries and their coastal cities, potentially affecting 300 million people by 2050. The  SRTM mapping by satellite showed cities’ elevation from the tops of their buildings (rather than penetrating to their ground level).

Climate Central’s scientists developed the newer method, CoastalDEM (Digital Elevation Model), which then showed the real vulnerability of populations in this region, including major cities in China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam Indonesia, and Thailand.  Climate Central is also surveying elevations in Europe and the Americas.

We report on such key methodological improvements since they will be keys to better understanding of the risks all human populations face and efforts to stabilize fossil fuel emissions and reduce them to prevent catastrophic warming of our atmosphere.  Similar re-evaluation of the method used to calculate remaining “carbon budgets“ assumed to be still available to continue emissions are now also under review.  International groups including  IIASA and Japan’s Kyoto University find that assumptions about these “carbon budgets“ are not consistent with other scenarios modeling CO2 emissions and their contributions to climate change, as reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

We have previously queried the validity of such “carbon budgets” in our annual Green Transition Scoreboard reports.

Hazel Henderson, Editor“

Report: Flooded Future: Global vulnerability to sea level rise worse than previously understood

New elevation data show that by midcentury frequent coastal flooding will rise higher than areas currently home to hundreds of millions of people


  • As a result of heat-trapping pollution from human activities, rising sea levels could within three decades push chronic floods higher than land currently home to 300 million people 
  • By 2100, areas now home to 200 million people could fall permanently below the high tide line
  • The new figures are the result of an improved global elevation dataset produced by Climate Central using machine learning, and revealing that coastal elevations are significantly lower than previously understood across wide areas
  • The threat is concentrated in coastal Asia and could have profound economic and political consequences within the lifetimes of people alive today 
  • Findings are documented in a new peer-reviewed paper in the journal Nature Communications

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