Climate change and rising sea levels may cause half of the world’s beaches to disappear, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change by researchers at the European Commission’s Joint Research Center,media reported. Beaches make up more than a third of the world’s coastline and are usually located in densely populated areas. But new buildings, rising sea levels, storm surges from hurricanes or typhoons are eroding these coastlines, threatening people’s lives and infrastructure.
To assess the speed and extent of beach disappearance, Michalis Vousdoukas, a researcher at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and his colleagues mapped trends in 30 years of satellite imagery, which began in 1984. This predicts future beach erosion under two climate change scenarios.
One scenario is the RCP 8.5 path, which means that carbon emissions continue to increase as currently, and the other scenario is the RCP 4.5 path, where humans limit the maximum temperature of global warming to around 3 degrees Celsius, still above the 2 C ceiling of the Paris Agreement.
According to RCP8.5, by 2100, the world will lose 49.5 per cent of its sandy beaches and nearly 132,000 kilometres of coastline. Even by the middle of this century, the losses will be more than 40,000 kilometres.
In the case of RCP 4.5, 95,000 kilometres of coastline will still be invaded by 2100, most of which will disappear within the next 30 years.
Australia is likely to suffer the worst, with nearly 15,000km (more than 9,000 miles) of white beach coastlinewashed over the next 80 years. Next are Canada, Chile, the United States, Mexico, China, Russia, Argentina, India and Brazil.
By 2100, researchers say, even if humans significantly reduce the pollution of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming, it could cause the loss of more than a third of the planet’s sandy coastline. If current carbon emissions were still to come, half of the sandy coastline would have disappeared.
This will not only cause damage to coastal tourism in many countries, but will also have an impact on the survival of people in coastal areas. Beaches are often the first line of defense against coastal storms and flooding, without which the impact of extreme weather events could be even greater.