Some sinking sensation

Some sinking sensation

For 13 days from next Sunday, the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP27, will take place in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.

As we face the collective threat of climate change, COP27, according to climatologists or storm chasers, will provide an opportunity for world leaders to show solidarity – and take concerted action – when we need it most.

As leaders gather in Egypt, the UN Foundation will put a spotlight on key issues from climate finance to adaptation to oceans and shipping.

Experts say as many as 760 million people could be affected by rising sea levels if business-as-usual global warming continues, with estimated temperature increases of 4°C by the turn of the next century.

Aggressive carbon cuts could lower that rise to only 2°C, and could potentially reduce the number of people at risk to 130 million people.

Often, when we hear talk of rising sea levels, we think of island nations, which are already victims of the waves and are contemplating evacuation, but experts say the reality is much worse.

China, the world’s most populous country, with more than 1.4 billion population, has the world’s most at-risk population, with over 145 million people living in regions that would be affected by rising seas.

The United States, with its densely populated coastline, has roughly 25 million people at risk, according to these experts.

Other nations with more than 10 million people currently at risk include India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Japan.

The “megacities” most at risk from rising sea levels are Shanghai, Hong Kong, Calcutta, Mumbai, Dhaka, and two cities in Southeast Asia: Jakarta and Hanoi.

Experts are one in saying that rising sea levels driven by climate change pose a major threat to large coastal cities and that existing flood defenses will not be enough to save them from the sea.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, authorities are calling for urgent action, but some believe it’s already too late.

Global sea levels are rising and some of the world’s greatest cities could be underwater by the end of the century if action to protect them is not taken quickly.

The IPCC forecasts that by the end of this century sea levels could be as much as 1.1 meters higher than they are today and severe flooding events will become a regular occurrence in low-lying cities.

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020 warned that because of the faster-than-predicted melting of polar ice caps, the number of people vulnerable to rising sea levels — 190 million — was three times higher than the previous estimate.

“Rising sea levels will increasingly create refugees as people flee low-lying areas. Indeed, defense and intelligence agencies are now regularly warning that climate change could trigger conflicts severe enough to uproot entire populations,” the report adds.

In the 2019 edition of the report, the authors identified three strategies for adapting to rising sea levels: engineering projects to keep water out; nature-based defenses like conserving mangrove forests and salt marshes; and moving households and businesses to safer ground.

The 2050 Climate Change Index ranked the Thai capital of Bangkok as the world’s most vulnerable city to sea level rises.

A fifth of the city was reported underwater in 2011 when the region suffered its worst Monsoon flooding. More than 500 people were reported to have died.

Bangkok, like other cities at high risk of flooding, is sinking. Combined with a predicted increase in the frequency of extreme weather events and storm surges, this could see a third of the city underwater by 2050, according to World Bank figures.

Half a world away, New Orleans in the United States is also sinking.

The devastating effects of extreme weather on a low-lying coastal city were cruelly demonstrated by Hurricane Katrina, which unleashed deadly floods in 2005. Roughly half of the city is already below sea level.

Back in 1895, only 5 percent of the city was below sea level. Over time, improved land drainage caused the soil to dry out, according to experts, eventually resulting in major subsidence.

Scientists say this and other factors are causing areas of the city to sink by up to 40 millimeters a year.

Iraq’s port city of Basra was once known as the Venice of the East thanks to its freshwater canals.

Unfortunately, they also make the low-lying city vulnerable to flooding, especially as they have become clogged with refuse as a result of recent conflicts.

In our next installment, we will write about how to protect sinking cities. (ai/mtvn)

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