Is a 1M Increase in Global Sea-Level Dangerous for Society?

Is a 1m increase in global sea-level dangerous for society?

Is a 1m increase in global sea-level dangerous for society?

Check out this answer from Consensus:

The potential 1-meter increase in global sea levels is a serious concern for societies worldwide. The impact on developing countries, economic costs, population displacement, health risks, and specific cases like Bangladesh illustrate the multifaceted dangers posed by SLR. It is imperative that global and regional policymakers integrate SLR considerations into climate change strategies to mitigate risks and adapt to the changing environment.


The phenomenon of sea-level rise (SLR) is a critical aspect of climate change that poses a significant threat to coastal regions worldwide. The scientific community has provided substantial evidence that the continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions could lead to a rise in sea levels by as much as 1 meter within this century, with the potential for even greater increases if the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets were to break up unexpectedly1.

The Impact on Developing Countries of Rising Sea Levels

Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the consequences of SLR. A study assessing the impact on 84 coastal developing countries using Geographic Information System (GIS) software found that SLR could displace tens of millions of people. The associated economic and ecological damages are projected to be severe, with a small number of countries facing the most significant impacts1.

Economic Ramifications of Rising Sea Levels

The economic costs of SLR are not limited to developing nations. A comprehensive economic assessment of rapid SLR suggests that the global GDP could suffer a loss of 0.5%, with welfare losses nearing 2% worldwide under the highest SLR scenario. This study also highlights the stark regional disparities in costs, with certain areas in Europe, South-East Asia, and South Asia being particularly prone to high economic losses2.

Global Impacts and Population at Risk of Rising Sea Levels

A GIS analysis of global impacts from SLR indicates that with a 1-meter rise, the land area at risk spans between 1.055 to 2.193 million km², affecting 108 to 431 million people. The analysis also shows that forests and grasslands, which account for over 60% of the land cover in susceptible areas, would be significantly impacted3.

Health Concerns of Rising Sea Levels

The health implications of SLR are profound. Local sea-level rise could exacerbate the impact of storm surges, leading to increased water- and vector-borne diseases, salinification of coastal groundwater, pollution, and disruptions to health infrastructure during critical times. The displacement of populations due to coastal flooding could further compound these health threats6.

Case Study: Bangladesh of Rising Sea Levels

Bangladesh serves as a case study for the potential socioeconomic impacts of SLR. With scenarios predicting a rise of 1.5 to 2 meters, the country could face substantial GDP losses and significant population displacement. This highlights the need for proactive measures to reduce the danger of ocean flooding and prepare for future sea-level rise7.

The Risk of Inaction of Rising Sea Levels

Ignoring the threat of SLR could lead to increased coastal flooding and storm surges. Without adaptation measures, the number of people affected by flooding could rise dramatically, with estimates ranging from 16 to 388 million by the end of the century for mid-range SLR scenarios. This underscores the importance of considering SLR in policy decisions related to climate change mitigation and adaptation8.


Is a 1m increase in global sea-level dangerous for society?

Martine Lizotte has answered Likely

An expert from Université Laval in Oceanography

Global sea-levels are rising as a consequence of ocean warming (thermal expansion), melting of the world’s major ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica and smaller glaciers on land, as well as a decrease in the amount of water held beneath the land and in reservoirs above the land. Rising sea-levels will affect societies in different ways depending on where they live, with land topography and elevation being at the center of the preoccupations. According to a recent study (Kulp & Strauss 2019), 230 million people currently live by the coast, less than 1 m above the sea, increasing the vulnerability of these populations to flooding, storm surges, and contamination by salty waters of underground stores of fresh water for drinking and agricultural crops in coastal farming regions. Costs associated with the relocation of millions of people living near shorelines are astronomical. As such, adaptation strategies may include flood barriers to protect critical infrastructure (levees, dikes, seawalls), and floodproofing by elevating critical equipment and foundation systems.

Kulp, S.A., Strauss, B.H. New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding. Nat Commun 10, 4844 (2019).


Is a 1m increase in global sea-level dangerous for society?

Robert  Steneck has answered Near Certain

An expert from University of Maine in Oceanography, Marine Biology

Yes – for low lying islands and cities. It sets a new sea level above which storm impacts will be greater.


Is a 1m increase in global sea-level dangerous for society?

Megan Cook has answered Likely

An expert from Ocean Exploration Trust in Oceanography

Yes, 1-meter rise would create big changes on many coastlines worldwide. Even a small increase can have devastating effects on coastal habitats and communities through destructive erosion, wetland flooding, freshwater and agricultural soil contamination with salt, and lost habitat for fish, birds, and plants.


Is a 1m increase in global sea-level dangerous for society?

Rodrigo Garcia del Campo has answered Near Certain

An expert from Centro Nacional de Biotecnologia in Ecology

Yes, indeed. Some human populations are based in areas near the seas, at very low altitude levels, so a minimum rise of the sea level (mainly because of the polar ice melted due to global warming) can lead to the destruction of many cities and flooding of human settlements.


Is a 1m increase in global sea-level dangerous for society?

Jessica Meeuwig has answered Likely

An expert from University of Western Australia in Ecology, Marine Science

“Dangerous” is a loaded word but the outcomes of a 1-metre rise in sea level catastrophic for those living in low lying areas. Pacific islanders are already contemplating leaving their homes as rising sea levels erode their shorelines. With rising sea-levels, we’ll see more flooding and erosion or our coastlines generally. Insurance companies are also already reconsidering how and to what degree they ensure properties in at risk areas.


Is a 1m increase in global sea-level dangerous for society?

Mark Schuerch has answered Near Certain

An expert from University of Lincoln in Geography

Sea-level rise impacts around the world will depend on the abililty of societies to adapt. Lower-income countries will be most affected by global sea-level rise. The danger of a 1-m sea level originates from water level setup during storm events, such as hurricanes. Storms that are dangerous already will reach further inland and be more dangerous to larger populations.

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