A new study warns that one-fifth of the world's population, about two billion people, could become climate change refugees by the year 2100 due to rising ocean levels.
According to researchers, those who once lived on coastlines will face displacement and resettlement bottlenecks as they seek habitable places inland. "We're going to have more people on less land and sooner than we think," said Charles Geisler, Professor at Cornell University in the US.
Key Highlights of the study
• Earth's population is expected to touch nine billion by 2050 and go upto 11 billion by 2100, according to a UN report.
• The rise in the population will need to be met with more arable land even as rise in ocean levels consume fertile coastal zones and river deltas, driving people to seek new places to live.
• The study says that around 1.4 billion people could be climate change refugees by 2060, a number that will go upto 2 billion by 2100.
• The study describes tangible solutions and proactive adaptations in places like Florida and China, which coordinate coastal and interior land-use policies in anticipation of weather-induced population shifts.
• Beyond sea level rise, low-elevation coastal zones in many countries face intensifying storm surges that will push sea water further inland.
• Researchers have noted that the competition of reduced space will induce land-use trade-offs and conflicts. This could mean selling off public lands for human settlement.
Further, Geisler added that historically, humans have spent considerable effort reclaiming land from oceans, but now they will have to live with the opposite - the oceans reclaiming terrestrial spaces on the planet.
Geisler also said that now the pressure is on us to limit greenhouse gas emissions at present levels. It is the best future proofing against climate change, sea level rise and the catastrophic consequences that are likely to play out on coasts, as well as inland in the future.
The study was published in a journal called ‘Land Use Policy’.