Elevated climate change would block irreversible sea level rises affecting hundreds of millions of people, Guardian data analysis shows
Hundreds of millions of urban dwellers around the world will face flooding in their cities due to rising sea waters if the latest UN warnings that the world is underway for a 3C global warming come true, according to an analysis by Guardian data.
The world of three degrees: the cities that will drown by global warming
Famous beaches, business districts and swaths of farmland will be threatened by this high level of climate change, which this week the UN warned is a very real possibility unless nations reduce their carbon emissions.
Data from the Climate Central group of scientists analyzed by Guardian journalists shows that 3C of global warming will ultimately translate into irreversible sea level rises of perhaps two meters. Cities from Shanghai to Alexandria and from Rio to Osaka are among the worst hit. Miami would be flooded, as would the entire lower third of the US state of Florida.
The Guardian has found, however, that local preparations for a 3C world are as spotty as international efforts to prevent it from happening. In six of the coastal regions most likely to be affected, government planners are just realizing the enormity of the task ahead and, in some cases, have done nothing.
This comes ahead of the latest round of climate talks in Bonn next week, when negotiators will work on ways to monitor, fund, and increase national commitments to reduce CO2 so temperatures can rise on a safer path of between 1, 5 and 2C, which is the objective of the Paris agreement reached in 2015.
Currently, the momentum for change is too slow, according to the United Nations Environment Program. In its annual emissions gap report, released Tuesday, the international body said the government's commitments were only a third of what was needed. Non-state actors such as cities, businesses and citizens can only partially fill this void, causing warming to rise to 3 ° C or more by the end of this century, according to the report.
UN environment chief Erik Solheim said progress in the year since the Paris agreement came into force has been inadequate. "We are still in a situation where we are not doing enough to save hundreds of millions of people from a miserable future," he said.
South Beach, Miami, would be mostly underwater. Photograph: Nickolay Lamm / Courtesy Climate Central
Nature's ability to help may also be declining. On Monday, the World Meteorological Organization said carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere rose last year at a record rate to reach 403.3 parts per million, a level not seen since the Pliocene era three to five million years ago.
A 3C rise would lead to longer droughts, fiercer hurricanes, and blockages in sea level rises that would redraw many coastlines. Depending on the speed at which ice caps and glaciers are melting, this could take decades or more than a century. Colin Summerhayes of Scott's Polar Research Institute in Cambridge said a three-degree warming would melt polar and glacial ice much farther and faster than expected, potentially raising sea levels by two meters by 2100. .
At least 275 million city dwellers live in vulnerable areas, most of them in Asian coastal megacities and industrial centers such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, Bangkok and Tokyo.
Japan's second-largest city, Osaka, is projected to lose its Umeda and Namba business and entertainment districts unless global emissions are reduced or flood defenses are built. Officials grudgingly accept that they must now do more on the latter.
"In the past, our response was focused on reducing the causes of global warming, but since climate change is inevitable, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we are now discussing how to respond to the natural disasters that will follow." Said Toshikazu Nakaaki from the Osaka municipal government environment bureau.
In Miami, which would be almost completely below sea level even at 2 ° C, the sense of urgency is evident in City Hall, where commissioners ask voters to approve a "Miami Forever" bond in the November vote that includes $ 192 million, expanding drainage systems, raising roads, and building levees.
In other places, there is less money for adaptation and a weaker sense of urgency. In Rio de Janeiro, a 3 ° C rise would flood famous beaches like Copacabana, the national beachfront airport and many of the sites for last year's Olympics. But the cash-strapped city has been slow to prepare. A report compiled for the presidency of Brazil found "situations in which climate changes are not considered within the scope of planning."
In Egypt, even a 0.5m sea level rise is projected to submerge beaches in Alexandria and dislodge 8 million people in the Nile Delta unless protective measures are taken, according to the IPCC. But local activists say authorities see it as a distant problem. "As far as I'm concerned, this issue is not on the government's priority list," said Ahmed Hassan of the Save Alexandria Initiative, a group that works to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on the city.
The impacts will also be felt in the economy and food production. Among the most vulnerable areas in the UK is Lincolnshire, where swaths of farmland are likely to be lost to the sea.
“We are aware that climate change is happening and perhaps faster than expected, so we are trying to mitigate and adapt to protect people and property. We can't stop it, but we can reduce the risk, "said Alison Baptiste, director of strategy and investment at the UK Environment Agency. She said that the measures implemented should protect most communities in the short and medium term, but within 50 years the situation will be more challenging. "If the climate change projections are accurate, we will have to make some tough decisions."
Additional reporting by Justin McCurry, Dom Phillips, and Ruth Michaelson
Original article (in English)