More than two-thirds of Asia’s population is at risk of coastline flooding by 2050 — and India’s on the front line

Fishing boats in Tamil Nadu along India's east coastBCCL
  • More than 300 million people in the world are at risk from annual coastline flooding by 2050, according to a new study in Nature Communications.
  • The study triples the estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding.
  • China, followed by India, will have the highest populations vulnerable to shrinking coastlines.
No matter how fast the world manages to curb its carbon emissions in the coming years, sea-levels are going to rise and more than 300 million people are going to be at risk of flooding.

Destructive storm surges fuelled by increasingly powerful cyclones and rising seas will hit Asia hardest, according to a new study published in Nature Communication.

This includes more than two-thirds of Asia’s population, and India will be on the front line with it’s vast coastline of 7,516 kilometers.


Until now, the estimates of how many people will be exposed to the risks of coastal flooding were based on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM).

But those estimates fall short of the actual risk, according to the study. It’s not the sea-level estimates that have changed, but the elevation data.

The researchers used data from CoastalDEM — a new digital model developed that uses artificial intelligence (AI) as neural networks — which estimates that a lot more people will be exposed to flooding coastlines.


Estimates of tTotal populations on vulnerable landNature Communications

Asia bears the brunt

Storm surges and unexpected cyclones will fall hit have the largest impact on Asia — 70% of the affected worldwide will be living in China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Japan.

According to the revised estimates, rising sea-levels won’t just be leaving 5 million Indians vulnerable — but 36 million.


India’s neighbour China, will be the worst affected with 93 million people in the line of fire. Even in Bangladesh, even though it has a smaller coastline, 42 million will be at risk.
Fishing boats in ChinaPixabay

No walking away from it

As of today, more than 100 million people are already living in areas that fall below high tide levels, according to the study.

And it’s been a long time coming. Last month the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) disclosed that sea levels have been increasing by four millimeters a year since 2006. It added that if carbon emissions continue on their current trajectory, that pace will increase a 100 times.

Even if the level of global warming is capped at two degrees Celsius, sea-levels will still rise by half-a-meter by 2100. According to the Climate Clock, Earth will hit that level by 2051 and the increase will be twice as bad.

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Cyclone Fani and the impact of global warming captured by NASA