Climatic Change

, Volume 93, Issue 3, pp 379-388

First online:

The impact of sea level rise on developing countries: a comparative analysis

  • Susmita DasguptaAffiliated withDevelopment Research Group, World Bank Email author 
  • , Benoit LaplanteAffiliated withIndependent consultant
  • , Craig MeisnerAffiliated withDevelopment Research Group, World Bank
  • , David WheelerAffiliated withCenter for Global Development
  • , Jianping YanAffiliated withIndependent consultant

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Sea-level rise (SLR) due to climate change is a serious global threat: The scientific evidence is now overwhelming. Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions and associated global warming could well promote SLR of 1 m in this century, and unexpectedly rapid breakup of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets might produce a 3–5 m SLR. In this paper, we assess the consequences of continued SLR for 84 coastal developing countries. Geographic Information System (GIS) software has been used to overlay the best available, spatially disaggregated global data on critical impact elements (land, population, agriculture, urban extent, wetlands, and GDP), with the inundation zones projected for 1–5 m SLR. Our results reveal that tens of millions of people in the developing world are likely to be displaced by SLR within this century; and accompanying economic and ecological damage will be severe for many. At the country level results are extremely skewed, with severe impacts limited to a relatively small number of countries.