New research has shown that 28 per cent of the world’s population is vulnerable to sea level rise, as well as increased floods and intense storms.
Using recently created increased resolution data sets, researchers from Aalto University in Finland estimated that 1.9 billion inhabitants lived closer than 100 kilometres from the coast in areas less than 100 metres above the present sea level.
By 2050, the number of people in this zone will increase to 2.4 billion, with populations living lower than five metres above sea level will increase to 500 million people.
Aalto University assistant professor Matti Kummu said many of these people would have to adapt their livelihoods to the effects of climate change.
The study found that while population and wealth concentrated by the sea, food had to be grown further and further away from where people live.
Highlands and mountain areas will become increasingly important for food production, but also very vulnerable to changes in climate, the study authors said.
Over the past century there has been a clear tendency for cropland and pasture areas to grow most in areas outside population hotspots, and away from coastal areas. This will most probably continue in the future, study author Professor Olli Varis said.