Here’s one way to break down the effects of fiercer storm surges that will be wrought by climate change:
- Most land lost: Latin America
- Most people displaced: Middle East and North Africa
- Most economic losses: East Asia
World Bank economists reached these conclusions in a new draft report [PDF] that assesses the effects sea-level rise and more intense storms are likely to have if climate change continues unchecked. The report, by the researchers on the World Bank’s Energy and Environment team, combined climate prediction models with information on coastal population, coastal GDP, wetlands, agricultural lands, and other factors.
Like other climate-change studies, this one found disruption will be the most severe in low-income, developing nations. The countries most vulnerable to land loss include Namibia, Guinea, El Salvador, and Yemen, it found. Displacement would be the most dramatic in Djibouti, Yemen, Togo, El Salvador, and Mozambique.
In the run-up to international climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December, the report underscores the importance of deciding who will pay to help poorer coastal countries adapt. A proposal last week from U.S. climate negotiators acknowledged the same—that climate action will require not just curbing emissions but also a lot of money to help adjust to the effects that are already coming.
To be clear, the World Bank report focuses only on sea-level rise and storm surges, not on other effects of climate change like shfits in temperature and overall precipation. It acknowledges there is some scientific uncertainty about whether climate change will cause more intense storms, but it leans heavily on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007) cites a trend since the mid-1970s toward longer duration and greater intensity of storms, and a strong correlation with the upward trend in tropical sea surface temperature. In addition, it notes that hurricanes/cyclones are occurring in places where they have never been experienced before.
The authors, drawing on a range of computer model projects, assert a “probability greater than 66 percent” that continued warming of the ocean surface will lead to tropical cycles with greater intensity, higher peak wind speeds, and heaver precipitation.