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A sobering new study has found that more than three times as many people may be affected by rising sea levels by 2050 than had previously been thought.
Scientists at Climate Central, a research and advocacy group, used a new digital model to make a more accurate estimation based on satellite readings and artificial intelligence.
The research found that 300 million are currently living in areas that are likely to flood at least once a year by 2050 - dwarfing NASA's former predictions that an estimated 80 million were at risk.
Benjamin Strauss, Climate Central's chief scientist and CEO of Climate Central, said: "To us it's a staggering difference. It's a completely new perspective on the scale of this threat."
By 2050, #SeaLevelRise will push average annual coastal floods higher than land that is now home to 300 million people, according to a Climate Central study published today in @NatureComms Full report on the findings at: https://t.co/GHJR5jTRca #ClimateChange pic.twitter.com/r6llU7AEm3
- Climate Central (@ClimateCentral) October 29, 2019
The experts' findings, which were published in Nature Communications on Tuesday, flagged areas of Asia as the most at-risk - with the effects already being felt in Indonesia, where the government announced plans to move the capital city from Jakarta, an area increasingly vulnerable to flooding.
The report said: "In the coming decades, the greatest effects [of sea level rise] will be felt in Asia, thanks to the number of people living in the continent's low-lying coastal areas.
"Mainland China, Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand are home to the most people on land projected to be below average annual coastal flood levels by 2050."
Previously, estimates had been made using satellite data, which the Guardian reports 'overestimated the altitude of land' because of tall buildings and trees. The more recent findings, on the other hand, used artificial data to compensate for such misreadings.
The research came as a surprise even to the team of scientists, who were shocked by the magnitude of what is in store for the world.
Scott Kulp, the lead author of the study and a senior scientist at Climate Central, said: "These assessments show the potential of climate change to reshape cities, economies, coastlines and entire global regions within our lifetimes."
Kulp added: "As the tideline rises higher than the ground people call home, nations will increasingly confront questions about whether, how much and how long coastal defences can protect them."
Strauss explained that a World Bank study using the old data placed damages of $1 trillion per year by mid-century.
This, he said, would need to be updated to reflect the more recent findings.
"The need for coastal defences and higher planning for higher seas is much greater than we thought if we are to avoid economic harm and instability," Strauss added.
"The silver lining to our research: although many more people are threatened than we thought, the benefits of action are greater."
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