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Land exposed to extreme coastal flooding to double due to climate change

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July 30 (UPI) — The amount of coastal land at risk of extreme flooding due to climate change is expected to double in size over the next 80 years, according to a new study.

Models have previously showed that the combination of sea level rise and bigger ocean storms — trends fueled by climate change — is likely to yield more frequent and extreme flooding events in the decades ahead.

The latest research, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, determined the increase in coastal flooding will put new, previously insulated communities at risk.

By the end of the century, 77 million more people will be exposed to the risk of extreme flooding. Likewise, an extra $14.2 trillion worth of infrastructure could be in harm’s way by 2100.

“A warming climate is driving sea level rise because water expands as it warms, and glaciers are melting. Climate change is also increasing the frequency of extreme seas which will further increase the risk of flooding,” lead study author Ebru Kirezci, doctoral candidate at the University of Melbourne in Australia, said in a news release. “What the data and our model is saying is that compared with now, what we see as a 1-in-100-year extreme flood event will be 10 times more frequent because of climate change.”

Authors of the new study claim that at least some growth in flooding risk is unavoidable, but that communities can help minimize flooding risk by working to slow climate change and proactively building protective coastal barriers.

Previous studies have found that protecting coastal reefs, sea grasses, mangroves and other types of coastal estuaries can help minimize the damages caused by flooding.

The new research showed that some places will experience a larger increase in flood risk, including northwest Europe, as well as a variety low-lying hotspots in Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Southeast Asia, southeast Africa and North America.

“This is critical research from a policy point of view because it provides politicians with a credible estimate of the risks and costs we are facing, and a basis or taking action,” said Ian Young, study co-author and professor at the University of Melbourne. “This data should act as a wake-up call to inform policy at global and local government levels so that more flood defenses can be built to safeguard coastal life and infrastructure.”

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