Many coastal communities around the world already live with the threat from sea level rise and coastal flooding; where climate impacts can drown neighbourhoods, put people’s lives at risk and wreak economic havoc. But, if the world fails to commit to the Paris Agreement’s goal of reducing carbon emissions and limit global average temperature rise to 1.5oC, many of the world’s cities will face an extraordinary threat from rising seas and coastal flooding by mid-century. According to the new The Future We Don’t Want analysis, the total urban population at risk from sea level rise, if emissions don’t go down, could number over 800 million people, living in 570 cities, by 2050. It is therefore crucial that Paris Agreement pledges are honoured if the social and economic impacts of catastrophic climate change are to be avoided.
Even though variations in geography leave certain cities acutely exposed to sea level rise and coastal flooding, such as low-lying delta cities in typhoon and hurricane zones, a city’s level of climate risk is intensified by socio-economic circumstances and the built environment’s shape and form. In New York City, some of the most valuable properties in the world are located in flood-prone areas at the southern tip of Manhattan and real estate valued at an estimated $129 billion lies within the city’s floodplains.
Reducing emissions in line with the Paris Agreement would mean that the worst climate scenarios won’t come to pass, but even with limited global warming sea level rise and coastal flooding is bound to get worse.