Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Climate Change: Coastal Mega-Cities in for a Bumpy Ride

by Srabani Roy

NEW YORK - About 643 million people, or one-tenth of the world’s population, who live in low lying coastal areas are at great risk of oceans-related impacts of climate change, according to a global research study to be released next month.The study, by researchers at Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Sciences Information Network and the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development, is the first of its kind. The researchers identified populations, particularly urban populations, at greatest risk from rising sea levels and more intense storms due to climate change.

0328 07“Of the more than 180 countries with populations in the low-elevation coastal zone, 130 of them — about 70 percent — have their largest urban area extending into that zone,” said Bridget Andersen, a research associate at CIESIN, in a statement.

“Furthermore, the world’s largest cities — those with more than five million residents — have on average one-fifth of their population and one-sixth of their land area within this coastal zone.”

The study, which will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Environment and Urbanization, assesses the risks to populations and urban settlements along coastal areas that are less than 10 meters above sea level, referred to as the low-elevation coastal zone, or LECZ. Although globally this zone accounts for only two percent of the world’s land area, it contains 10 percent of the world’s population and 13 percent of the world’s urban population, the study found.

The 10 countries with the largest number of people living in this vulnerable, low-elevation zone, include in descending order: China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, Japan, Egypt, the United States, Thailand and the Philippines.

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