Some of the world’s great coastal cities could be severely inundated by 2050 as a result of global warming. Extreme floods that used to occur once a century could start hitting some cities every year.
Ninety-three million people currently live on land in China that could be inundated by 2050 due to the localized coastal flooding, according to research by independent US-based science organization Climate Central. Shanghai, which is China’s most populous city, is expected to be particularly vulnerable to ocean flooding as it lacks coastal defenses.
In Vietnam, more than 31 million people — almost one-quarter of the population — now live on land that will be threatened by saltwater flooding at least once per year by 2050, according to Climate Central. By that time, annual ocean floods are projected to particularly affect the densely populated Mekong Delta and the northern coast around Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.
In India, projected sea level rise could render land currently home to some 36 million people vulnerable to annual floods by 2050. West Bengal and Odisha are considered particularly vulnerable, as is the eastern city of Kolkata. In the absence of coastal defenses such as levees, elevation determines the extent to which ocean floods can wash over the land, according to Climate Central.
More than 10% of citizens in Thailand currently live on land that could become flooded by 2050. The political and commercial capital of Bangkok (pictured here during 2011 floods), is just 1.5 meters above sea level and therefore particularly at risk. Mapping by Hong Kong-based environmental nonprofit Earth.Org suggests 94% of the population would be displaced by flooding by 2100.
According to Climate Central modelling, Iraq’s second-largest city, Basra, is also extremely vulnerable to coastal flooding and could become largely submerged by 2050. Experts predict this could have effects well beyond Iraq’s borders, as the migration caused by rising seas could trigger or exacerbate regional and political conflicts.
Floods could also cause the disappearance of cultural heritage in the future. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great more than 2,000 years ago. But much of the city of 5 million on the Mediterranean is low-lying. Mapping by Earth.Org indicates that without flood controls or relocation programs, much of the city could be inundated by 2100.