Scientists have dramatically underestimated the impact rising seas will have on cities around the world, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday.
One hundred and fifty million people are currently living in places that will be below the high-tide line in 30 years — three times as many people as the old projection methods estimated.
Previous estimates relied on satellite data to forecast sea-level rise, but satellites can’t distinguish between ground level and taller elements integrated into the landscape, like trees and buildings. The paper, authored by Scott Kulp and Benjamin Strauss of the Princeton, New Jersey-based nonprofit Climate Central, used artificial intelligence to identify errors in the data and correct them.
Their model paints a grim picture: whole swaths of Vietnam, Thailand, coastal China, India, Egypt and Iraq swallowed by ocean. Where previous estimates showed one percent of Thailand’s population would live in areas under water by 2050, the revised estimates puts the figure closer to 10 percent. In Vietnam, a quarter of the country’s residents — 20 million people — presently live in areas that will be flooded at high tide. Almost all of Mumbai, where 1.6 percent of India’s population lives, will be inundated.