The brutal effects of climate change, such as Cyclone Amphan that devastated southwest Bangladesh this past May, are hitting already vulnerable communities the hardest, underscoring the importance of applying an equity lens to climate action.
New data from space is providing the most precise picture yet of Antarctica’s ice, where it is accumulating most quickly and disappearing at the fastest rate, and how the changes could contribute to rising sea levels.
Most estimates of global mean sea-level rise this century fall below 2 m. This quantity is comparable to the positive vertical bias of the principle digital elevation model (DEM) used to assess global and national population exposures to extreme coastal water levels, NASA’s SRTM. CoastalDEM is a new DEM utilizing neural networks to reduce SRTM error. Here we show – employing CoastalDEM—that 190 M people (150–250 M, 90% CI) currently occupy global land below projected high tide lines for 2100 under low carbon emissions, up from 110 M today, for a median increase of 80 M. These figures triple SRTM-based values. Under high emissions, CoastalDEM indicates up to 630 M people live on land below projected annual flood levels for 2100, and up to 340 M for mid-century, versus roughly 250 M at present. We estimate one billion people now occupy land less than 10 m above current high tide lines, including 230 M below 1 m.