The sort of extreme weather that used to hit coastlines once a century will happen every year by 2050, according to a new United Nations study.
The authors of the report say sea levels are rising twice as fast as during the 20th century as the melting of the world’s largest reservoirs of ice accelerates. “Don’t buy coastal properties,” warns Sky News.
The Times says the “sobering” study, signed off by 195 member nations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggests that coastal properties in vulnerable regions “will almost certainly have to be sacrificed”.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
They say events such as the North Sea flood of 1953, which killed 300 people in south-east England, will increase in frequency, no matter if climate heating emissions are curbed or not.
“There’s no scenario that stops sea-level rise in this century. We’ve got to deal with this indefinitely,” Michael Oppenheimer, of Princeton University, an author of the report, said.
–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––For a round-up of the most important stories from around the world - and a concise, refreshing and balanced take on the week’s news agenda - try The Week magazine. Get your first six issues for £6–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
The research, described by the Weather Channel as “grim”, found that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and declining marine life.
Experts say it is not only those who live by the sea that should be concerned. “The future for low-lying coastal communities looks extremely bleak,” said Professor Jonathan Bamber, from Bristol University, who is not one of the report’s authors. “But the consequences will be felt by all of us.”
Melting ice will hit tourism, says the report, with Europe’s ski resorts struggling to keep snow on their slopes as temperatures rise and the world’s glaciers shrink. It forecasts that the Alps could be stripped of virtually all glacier ice.
Glaciers can often be a critical water source, so in total, about 670 million people in mountainous regions are viewed as being at risk of having their ways of life severely disrupted, along with 680 million in low-lying coastal zones, due to the risk of rising seas.
Hoesung Lee, chairman of the IPCC, said: “If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable.”
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.