Summary: 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.
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