Story at a glance
- Researchers at the European Union’s Joint Research Center used satellite images to track how beaches have changed over the past three decades and simulated how rising global temperatures could affect them in the future.
- The study found that by the end of the century about half of the beaches globally will experience erosion that is more than 100 meters.
- At least 40 percent of shoreline retreat could be avoided with a “moderate” reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
A new study claims half of the world’s sandy beaches could disappear by the end of the century due to sea-level rise and erosion if climate change continues unchecked.
The study published Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change used satellite images to track how beaches have transformed over the past three decades and how global warming could affect beaches moving forward in the future.
The study found that the extent to which beaches are at risk depends on how much average global temperatures will increase by the year 2100. Larger temperature increases mean more sea-level rise and more violent storms.
“What we find is that by the end of the century around half of the beaches in the world will experience erosion that is more than 100 meters,” Michalis Vousdoukas, the study’s lead author and a coastal oceanography researcher at the European Commission's Joint Research Center in Ispra, Italy told the Associated Press.
“It’s likely that they will be lost.”
The study’s authors looked at two climate change scenarios: a scenario where global average temperatures would rise by 2.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century and a second scenario that predicts an increase in temperature twice as high.
Researchers noted that Gambia and Guinea-Bissau in West Africa could lose more than 60 percent of their beaches, while predictions are just as bad for Iraq, Pakistan, the island of Jersey in the English Channel and the Pacific island of Palau.
More than 7,500 miles of coastline in Australia would be at risk, while the U.S., Canada, Mexico, China, Iran, Argentina and Chile would lose thousands of miles of beach, according to the study.
While the amount of beach lost is expected to vary by location, researchers found densely populated areas, including those along the U.S. East Coast, South Asia and Central Europe, could see shorelines retreat inland by nearly 330 feet by 2100.
The study says, however, that 40 percent of shoreline retreat could be averted if even a moderate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions were to be achieved, such as the capping of warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius outlined in the Paris Climate Agreement.