Vancouver among cities affected by rising sea levels caused by climate change: report

Downtown Vancouver (via Wikimedia Commons).

More than one million Canadians are at risk of being inundated by rising sea levels if no efforts are made to combat global warming, according to a new report by Climate Central.

The report outlines consequences if global warming continues unabated and average global temperatures rise by a projected 4°C, melting polar icecaps and submerging land around the world that is home to up to 760 million people.

Even if global warming is limited to 2°C by a strong climate deal in Paris, an estimated 737,000 Canadians would still be deemed at risk from rising sea levels, including 340,000 Vancouverites living on the Pacific coast.

“The global stakes of climate change are crystal clear with sea level rise,” said Dr. Benjamin Strauss vice president for climate impacts at Climate Central and lead author of the report. “The outcome at Paris can point us toward losing countless great coastal cities and monuments around the world, unending migration, and destabilization, or toward preserving much more of our global heritage, and a more stable future.”

Sea level rises will likely unfold over several hundred years, so would not represent an immediate threat, but the level of greenhouse gas emissions in the 21st century will 'lock in' how severe they may be.

China most at risk

The report finds that China is most at risk with 145 million people living on land ultimately threatened by rising seas if greenhouse gas emissions are not slashed.

However, China also has the most to gain from limiting warming to 2°C, which would cut the total number of people at risk to 64 million. Twelve other nations each have more than 10 million people living on land at risk, including India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

Meeting the 2°C goal would reduce exposure by more than 10 million in each of these nations, plus most others in the top risk group, including Japan, the U.S., the Philippines, Egypt, and Brazil.

Global megacities most endangered by rising sea levels include Shanghai, Hong Kong, Calcutta, Mumbai, Dhaka, Jakarta, and Hanoi.

“Sea-level rise is nothing to be afraid of, because it is slow, but it is something to be worried about, because it is consuming our land, including the cities in which we create our future heritage today," said Anders Levermann, co-chair of the Research Domain Sustainable Solutions at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

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