Scientific evidence now suggests that sea level could rise by more than a meter within this century, and the unexpectedly rapid breakup of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets might produce a 3-5 meter rise in sea level.
The magnitude of such changes could be catastrophic for many developing countries. Estimates suggest that even a one-meter rise in sea level in coastal countries of the developing world would submerge 194,000 square kilometers of land area, and displace at least 56 million people. This research assesses the consequences of SLR for at-risk developing countries on land, population, agriculture, urban extent, wetlands and GDP.At the country level results are extremely skewed.
Tens of millions of people in the developing world may be potentially displaced or their income from agricultural or economic activites in these zone severely impacted.
So far, severe impacts from sea level rise seem limited to a relatively small number of countries (e.g., Vietnam, Bangladesh, Egypt, the Bahamas), however, the consequences of SLR are potentially catastrophic. For many others, including some of the largest (e.g., China), the absolute magnitudes of potential impacts are very large.
"Climate Change and the Future Impacts of Storm-Surge Disasters in Developing Countries," Susmita Dasgupta, Benoit Laplante, Siobhan Murray, and David Wheeler, Center for Global Development Working Paper 182, September 2009.
This paper explores the implications of sea-level rise and storm surges for 84 developing countries and 577 of their cyclone-vulnerable coastal cities with populations greater than 100,000. Combining the most recent scientific and demographic information, they estimate the future impact of climate change on storm surges that will strike coastal populations, economies, and ecosystems. We focus on the distribution of heightened impacts, because we believe that greater knowledge of their probable variation will be useful for local and national planners, as well as international donors. Our results suggest gross inequality in the heightened impact of future disasters, with the most severe effects limited to a small number of countries and a small cluster of large cities.
An additional spreadsheet (.xls 53k), of special interest to planners in developing countries, includes more complete city-level results.
“Cyclones in a Changing Climate: The Case of Bangladesh,” Susmita Dasgupta, Mainul Huq, Zahirul Huq Khan, Manjur Murshed Zahid Ahmed, Nandan Mukherjee, Malik Fida Khan, Kiran Pandey. 2011. A revised version of this paper is forthcoming in the Climate and Development Journal.
This paper integrates information on climate change, hydrodynamic models, and geographic overlays to assess the vulnerability of coastal areas in Bangladesh to larger storm surges and sea-level rise by 2050. The approach identifies polders, coastal populations, settlements, infrastructure, and economic activity at risk of inundation, and estimates the damage versus the cost of several adaptation measures. A 27-centimeter sea-level rise and 10 percent intensification of wind speed from global warming suggests a 69 percent increase in the vulnerable zone with more than 3-meter inundation depth, and a 14 percent increase in areas with 1-3 meter inundation depth. Estimates indicate investments including strengthening polders, foreshore afforestation, additional multi-purpose cyclone shelters, cyclone-resistant private housing, and further strengthening of the early warning and evacuation system would cost more than $2.4 billion with an annual recurrent cost of more than $50 million. These estimates can serve as a prototype of the adaptation costs to extreme weather events in climate negotiations.
This paper is based on "Vulnerability of Bangladesh to cyclones in a changing climate: potential damages and adaptation cost," Susmita Dasgupta, Mainul Huq, Zahirul Huq Khan, Manjur Murshed Zahid Ahmed, Nandan Mukherjee, Malik Fida Khan, Kiran Pandey, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 5280, 2010.
"The Impact of Sea-Level Rise on Developing Countries: A Comparative Analysis," Susmita Dasgupta, Benoit Laplante, Craig Meisner, David Wheeler, Jianping Yan, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4136, 2009.
Sea level rise (SLR) due to climate change is a serious global threat. The scientific evidence is now overwhelming. Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions and associated global warming could well promote SLR of 1m-3m in this century, and unexpectedly rapid breakup of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets might produce a 5m SLR. In this paper, the authors have assessed the consequences of continued SLR for 84 developing countries. Geographic Information System (GIS) software has been used to overlay the best available, spatially-disaggregated global data on critical impact elements (land, population, agriculture, urban extent, wetlands, and GDP) with the inundation zones projected for 1-5m SLR. The results reveal that hundreds of millions of people in the developing world are likely to be displaced by SLR within this century, and accompanying economic and ecological damage will be severe for many. At the country level, results are extremely skewed, with severe impacts limited to a relatively small number of countries. For these countries (such as Vietnam, A. R. of Egypt, and The Bahamas), however, the consequences of SLR are potentially catastrophic. For many others, including some of the largest (such as China), the absolute magnitudes of potential impacts are very large. At the other extreme, many developing countries experience limited impacts. Among regions, East Asia and the Middle East and North Africa exhibit the greatest relative impacts. To date, there is little evidence that the international community has seriously considered the implications of SLR for population location and infrastructure planning in developing countries. The authors hope that the information provided in this paper will encourage immediate planning for adaptation.
"The Impact of Sea-Level Rise on Developing Countries: A Comparative Analysis," Susmita Dasgupta, Benoit Laplante, Craig Meisner, David Wheeler, Jianping Yan, Climate Change 93(3): 379-88, 2009. (see abstract above)
"Climate Change and Sea Level Rise: A Review of the Scientific Evidence," Susmita Dasgupta and Craig Meisner, Environment Department Paper 118, World Bank, Washington, DC, 2009. (PDF 2.03mb)
Sea-level rise (SLR) due to climate change is a serious global threat: The scientific evidence is now overwhelming. The rate of global sea level rise was faster from 1993 to 2003, about 3.1 mm per year, as compared to the average rate of 1.8 mm per year from 1961 to 2003 (IPCC, 2007); and significantly higher than the average rate of 0.1 to 0.2 mm/yr increase recorded by geological data over the last 3,000 years. Anthropogenic warming and SLR will continue for centuries due to the time scales associated with climate processes and feedbacks, even if greenhouse gas concentrations were to be stabilized. This paper reviews the scientific literature to date on climate change and sea level rise.
There appears to be a consensus across studies that global sea level is projected to rise during the 21st century at a greater rate than during the period 1961 to 2003 and unanimous agreement that SLR will not be geographically uniform. Ocean thermal expansion is projected to contribute significantly, and land ice will increasingly lose mass at an accelerated rate. But most controversial are the mass balance loss estimates of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets and what the yet un-quantified dynamic processes will imply in terms of SLR. Recent evidence on the vulnerability of Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheets to climate warming raises the alarming possibility of SLR by one meter or more by the end of the 21st century.
"Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surges: A Comparative Analysis of Impacts in Developing Countries," Susmita Dasgupta, Benoit Laplante, Siobhan Murray, and David Wheeler, World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 4901, 2009.
An increase in sea surface temperature is evident at all latitudes and in all oceans. The current understanding is that ocean warming plays a major role in intensified cyclone activity and heightened storm surges. The vulnerability of coastlines to intensified storm surges can be ascertained by overlaying Geographic Information System information with data on land, population density, agriculture, urban extent, major cities, wetlands, and gross domestic product for inundation zones likely to experience more intense storms and a 1 meter sea-level rise. The results show severe impacts are likely to be limited to a relatively small number of countries and a cluster of large cities at the low end of the international income distribution.