Sustainability Environment

Coastal communities experience sea-level rise four times worse than global average

Story at a glance

  • Researchers from the University of East Anglia found that while global average sea-level rise is 2.6 millimeters a year, coastal cities have seen an average rise of 7.8-9.9 millimeters annually over the past two decades.
  • “About 58 percent of the world’s coastal population lives on deltas where land is subsiding. Less than 1 percent of global coastal population lives where land is uplifting.”
  • The study found that coastal areas of Asia have been most affected by sea-level rise in relation to human-induced land subsidence.

A new study says coastal communities are experiencing sea-level rise up to four times faster than the global average due to the removal of groundwater and other resources from the Earth. 

The study published in Nature Climate Change Monday is the first to factor in land subsidence into current sea-level rise observations worldwide. 


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Subsidence is the sinking of the ground due to underground material movement, most often caused by the removal of water, oil, natural gas or other mineral resources. It can also be caused by natural events such as earthquakes, soil compaction and erosion. 

Researchers from the University of East Anglia found that while global average sea-level rise is 2.6 millimeters a year, coastal cities have seen an average rise of 7.8-9.9 millimeters annually over the past two decades. 

“Rapid rates of subsidence in deltas and especially cities on deltas are also human-caused, mostly due to groundwater pumping, also oil and gas extraction, and sediment resupply prevented by upstream dams, flood defences, sand extraction or mining,” professor Robert Nicholls, lead researcher of the study, said in a statement

“About 58 percent of the world’s coastal population lives on deltas where land is subsiding. Less than 1 percent of global coastal population lives where land is uplifting,” Nicholls said. 

Nicholls said addressing human-induced subsidence is important in the short term to protect people and economies and noted that the effects of sea-level rise are much larger than the numbers being reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. 

The study found that coastal areas of Asia have been most affected by sea-level rise in relation to human-induced land subsidence due to the many subsiding deltas, coastal floodplains and large population. 


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