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As Many As 3 Million Americans Could Soon Be Threatened by Sea Level Rise

Across the world, 650 million people could be at risk

A capture of the map showing how various countries' populations may be affected by sea level rise. For the full experience see the interactive infographic at the (New York Times)
smithsonian.com

The ocean is rising, and unlike smog or water pollution or overfilled trash heaps, sea level rise is a unfair arbiter of environmental irresponsibility—the people who are causing the problem won't necessarily be the ones to feel the effects.

When the New York Times and Climate Central looked at and plotted out in an interactive infographic which countries are expected to be most strongly affected by sea level rise, they found that changing coastal geography is threatening the livelihoods of millions of people. The analysis only looked at large countries, those with populations above 1 million people, but of these, says the Times, 8 of the top 10 are in Asia. 

China will be the most affected, followed by Vietnam, Japan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Netherlands, the Philippines and Myanmar. Proportionately, Vietnam will be the large country most affected by sea level rise. If people keep living where they do now, a full quarter of the Vietnamese population will be either submerged beneath the waves or subjected to chronic flooding by the end of the century.

Yet the United States is not immune to the risks, says Climate Central, and in fact ranked 11th on the list of most at-risk large countries. According to the analysis, as many as 3 million people in the U.S. will be affected—and even this may be an underestimate.

Depending on how swiftly people move to counteract climate change and the sensitivity of sea level rise to carbon emissions, researchers with Climate Central expect that anywhere from 147 to 650 million people may be affected by sea level rise by the year 2100.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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