Population and Environment

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 28–54 | Cite as

Understanding the demographic implications of climate change: estimates of localized population predictions under future scenarios of sea-level rise

  • Katherine J. CurtisEmail author
  • Annemarie Schneider
Original Paper


Significant advances have been made to understand the interrelationship between humans and the environment in recent years, yet research has not produced useful localized estimates that link population forecasts to environmental change. Coarse, static population estimates that have little information on projected growth or spatial variability mask substantial impacts of environmental change on especially vulnerable populations. We estimate that 20 million people in the United States will be affected by sea-level rise by 2030 in selected regions that represent a range of sociodemographic characteristics and corresponding risks of vulnerability. Our results show that the impact of sea-level rise extends beyond the directly impacted counties due to migration networks that link inland and coastal areas and their populations. Substantial rates of population growth and migration are serious considerations for developing mitigation, adaptation, and planning strategies, and for future research on the social, demographic, and political dimensions of climate change.


Climate change Sea-level rise Population scenarios Local estimates Vulnerable populations United States 



This research was supported by funds to Curtis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Graduate School and by the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station. The authors wish to acknowledge Paul Voss, Jennifer Huck, and Bill Buckingham of the Applied Population Laboratory for technical assistance, Jack DeWaard for invaluable research assistance, and Halliman Winsborough, the editor, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Community & Environmental SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Center for Sustainability and the Global EnvironmentMadisonUSA

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