Most of Mumbai may be submerged by rising sea levels by 2050


A sobering new study has found that more than three times as many people may be affected by rising sea levels by 2050 than we had previously thought. Global sea levels are expected to rise between 0.6 meters to 2.1 meters (two to seven feet) and more over the course of the 21st century. "Now that we have a clearer picture of how much more land - and how many more people - may face severe coastal flooding in the foreseeable future, we can see not only what we stand to lose but also what we have to gain by reducing emissions and avoiding the worst sea-level rise projections".

It says 36 million people along the Indian coastlines now live on land that will fall below the annual flood level by 2050, exposing them to risks of flooding, damage to infrastructure, loss of livelihood, or permanent displacement. Their study claims that previous methods to measure land elevation suffered from large errors in most of the world apart from the US, Australia and parts of Europe.

This upward increase is based on a more sophisticated assessment of the topography of coastlines across the globe.

Older techniques for assessing coastal vulnerability, which rely on satellite data, are easily flummoxed by tall buildings and trees, leading to overestimates in altitude-and misleadingly low risk scores for heavily forested areas or cities packed with skyscrapers. Researchers at Climate Central used artificial intelligence to make more accurate predictions. In Vietnam, previous estimates showed some scattered parts of southern Vietnam being submerged by a high tide.

"We've had a huge blind spot as to the degree of danger, and that's what we've been striving to improve, " said Benjamin Strauss of Climate Central, who authored the study in Nature Communications with colleague Scott Kulp.

"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.

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The majority of the people affected live in Asia - with the greatest threats facing mainland China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand. The Climate Central press release highlights that China's low-lying big cities are particularly vulnerable. That estimate was previously believed to be around 38 million people. Almost 21 million - and not 2.8 million - are expected to be living below the High Tide Line, the boundary that marks the farthest to which the sea reaches into the land at high tide.

This, he said, would need to be updated to reflect the more recent findings.

A key report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), showed that the impacts of climate change are increasing and inevitable.

According to them, models are dependent on an increasingly volatile Antarctic ice sheets which continues to hemorrhage ice into the sea.

The study found Mumbai's green zones, which act as sponges and flood plains - such as the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Aarey Milk Colony, Powai, Andheri (East), Borivli, Kandivli (East), Mulund (West), Thane (West), and Bhiwandi - are likely to survive the rise in sea level.