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Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surges : High Stakes for a Small Number of Developing Countries

Brecht, Henrike, Dasgupta, Susmita, Laplante, Benoit, Murray, Siobhan, Wheeler, David
cities, climate change, developing countries, disaster preparedness, disasters, ecosystems, sea level, storms
As the climate changes during the 21st century, larger cyclonic storm surges and growing populations may collide in disasters of unprecedented size. As conditions worsen, variations in coastal morphology will magnify the effects in some areas, while largely insulating others. In this article, we explore the implications for 31 developing countries and 393 of their cyclone-vulnerable coastal cities with populations greater than 100,000. Combining the most recent scientific and demographic information, we estimate the future impact of climate change on storm surges that will strike coastal populations, economies, and ecosystems. We focus on the distribution of heightened impacts, because we believe that greater knowledge of their probable variation will be useful for local and national planners, as well as international donors. Our results suggest gross inequality in the heightened impact of future disasters, with 50% of the burden falling on the residents of 10 Asian cities and over 40% falling on Manila, Karachi, and Jakarta alone. In light of these huge asymmetries, we believe that careful targeting of international assistance will be essential for the effective and equitable allocation of resources for coastal protection and disaster prevention.