A new study has revealed that the world is facing losing almost half of its beaches by 2100 as a result of climate change. However, if action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions even by a moderate amount, the 40% retreat of the world’s shorelines could potentially be prevented.
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A new study predicts erosion will wipe out 40% of beaches
A team of researchers at the European Union’s Joint Research Center based in Ispra, Italy, has recently released findings from their study which monitored how beaches have changed over the last three decades using satellite images.
The results have revealed that the world’s beaches are eroding at a concerning rate, and scientists have attributed these dramatic changes to climate-driven events, such as coastal flooding.
It is predicted that by the end of the century beaches will have eroded by around 100 meters, for some locations, this will mean losing the beach entirely.
How global warming is changing the world’s coastline
The findings of the study, that were published in the journal Nature Climate Change this week, determine that the extent of future coastal erosion is dependent on how much average global temperatures continue to rise between now and the end of the century.
Warmer temperatures lead to rising sea levels and an increase in the incidence of violent storms. Both of these factors are significant in causing erosion, which threatens to change the world’s coastline.
Wildlife will be endangered as sand erosion progresses, slowly wiping away the habits of many species. People will also be detrimentally impacted as around the world, communities live in coastal settlements that will no longer be protected from storms and rising sea levels as the beaches retreat.
While governments as employing measures to prevent coastal erosion, these initiatives are becoming increasingly expensive and difficult to sustain.
It is predicted that 36,097km of sandy coastlines will have eroded in just 30 years, representing a loss of 13.6% of beaches. After this, the rate of erosion is predicted to accelerate, with a further 95,061km of coastline disappearing in the second half of the century.
These figures represent an optimistic forecast and were calculated assuming that the rise in ocean levels would be limited to 50cm by 2100. This is scenario RCP4.5, where global governments take action to reduce climate change and prevent the melting of the ice-caps.
In another possible scenario, where carbon emissions continue at their present rate, sea levels will rise by 80cm by 2100, causing more of the world’s coastlines to be lost as they become submerged.
If the RCP4.5 scenario is realized, beaches around the world will retreat by an average of 86.4 meters. If we continue adding carbon into the atmosphere at current rates, this figure will be 128.1 meters. This loss will not be uniform across the world, with steeper coastlines being better protected, and flatter, wider coastlines being more easily lost.
Reducing emissions could save our beaches
Fortunately, scientists have predicted that if the world takes rapid action to reduce emissions and prevent climate change, the loss of coastlines could be reduced. Even reducing emissions by a moderate amount could save 17% of shoreline loss by 2050, and 40% by 2100, equating to an average of 42 meters of sand being saved.
This data comes to us shortly after another study reported that a 0.5 degrees Celsius rise in temperature over the next half a century would result in 50% of the world’s species becoming locally extinct.
Together with the current findings, the vital importance of reducing emissions in protecting the planet’s ecosystems is highlighted, which should urge governments to take swift action on climate change.