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A new study warns of the dangers of coastal development and sea level rise

Damages from Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu. Creative Commons: UNICEF Pacific, 2015

Damages from Cyclone Pam, Vanuatu. Creative Commons: UNICEF Pacific, 2015

A new study has found that growth in coastal areas may expose more than a billion people to sea level rise.

The study published in the journal PLOS ONE, looked into the effects of sea-level rise and extreme weather on low-level coastal populations across the world.

The researchers estimated the number of people living in low-elevation coastal zones and the risk to these populations from from one-in-100-year storm surge events..

The researchers found that the global population in low-elevation coastal zones could rise by more than 40% by 2030, to 879 million.

By 2060, more than a billion people worldwide could be living in those flood-prone areas, and the researchers warned that 411 million people could be affected by extreme flooding by the same year.

The study found Asia- particularly China, Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, and Indonesia- at greatest risk for these future scenarios.

Other research has also shown that Asia is most vulnerable.

The World Bank estimates that Asia may face the majority of economic losses from sea level rise, including a significant portion of its estimated $12 trillion loss.

Sea level rise will only further worsen the situation for already vulnerable island nations and coastal areas in Asia, already being hit by extreme weather impacts.

In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons ever recorded, hit the Philippines killing at least 6,300 people.

Earlier this month, Cyclone Pam devastated Vanuatu, destroying much of the nation’s infrastructure and displacing thousands.

Cyclone Pam offered a timely reminder of the impacts facing the world’s most vulnerable nations.

Pam’s destruction came as the world’s governments gathered in Sendai, Japan to plot a course to reduce the risk of future disasters. The talks resulted in a 15-year plan, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, focusing on lowering the global mortality rate and economic loses of such disasters.

But commenters warn that Sendai did not go far enough.

For example, Oxfam’s Mark Goldring, says that wealthy countries should have offered far more financial and technical support to the countries struggling to recover from disasters.

Goldring notes that countries like Vanuatu, who are least responsible for climate change, are the countries facing its greatest impacts.

Countries more responsible for causing climate change should take on a larger financial burden to help them.

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