New study finds sea level rise underestimated

According to a Dutch study, based on new satellite images, the flood risk for millions of people in Southeast Asia’s tropical areas is far greater than thought. Greenpeace warns that this will cause economic and social damage.

Bangkok (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Sea level rise in Southeast Asia is at a more advanced stage than previously thought, a new study using advanced satellite imagery found.

For millions of people in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, this means a new ball game when it comes to climate change.

The study by the Dutch-based Deltares Research Institute, published in the Nature Communications journal in late June, highlights how previous projections were inaccurate.

“Most existing elevation models for the region, and indeed globally, were based on radar data which cannot fully penetrate vegetation and therefore yield a land elevation that is often too high by one or several metres,” explained Dr Aljosja Hooijer, the co-author of the report.

“If the assumed land elevation is too high, the resulting calculated flood risk is too low,” Hooijer added.

Asia’s tropical regions are the most at risk. If the sea level were to rise by just one metre (which the study predicts for 2100), the people living in areas at high risk of coastal flooding would be threatened, that is 38 million in Vietnam, 28 million in Indonesia and 23 million in Thailand, 21 per cent more than previous estimates.

The impact will affect large cities and agricultural areas, not just coastal communities. Vast areas could become uninhabitable and unproductive, with cascading consequences for food production.

“Climate change impact is not only an environmental problem. It devastates the economy and, as a result, will create nationwide social problems,” said Tata Mustasya, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s regional climate and energy campaign strategist.

According to estimates by the environmental organisation, the potential damage could reach US$ 724 billion in the urban areas of Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila, Taipei, Seoul, Tokyo and Hong Kong alone.