Climate change is unambiguously the most challenging issue facing the 21st century. In 2007, a study by McGranahan, Balk and Anderson established that cites and urban population are disproportionately at risk in coastal zones. Substantial improvements in data, and new data products, have made it possible to update that study and more importantly decompose populations at risk along an urban continuum, by vulnerability within the low elevation coastal zone, and to examine changes in population and built-up area growth and density over a 25 year period. This study reiterates earlier findings but also reveals a Low Elevation Coastal Zone in 2015 with population densities six time higher than the rest of the world. We find 14% of city-dwellers and 10% of suburban, peri-urban and town residents live in the LECZ. Population growth rates since 1990 for urban centers in the LECZ are about 20% higher than growth rates elsewhere. With much historical precedent, most of these settlements have been developed with little regard for coastal environmental sensitivities, and almost no regard for growing climate risks, also concentrated along the coast. Nevertheless, this new-found evidence lays the ground work city and urban-specific adaptation planning.
Speaker: Deborah Balk, School of Public Affairs - Baruch College | CUNY