(CN) – Rising sea levels will flood coastal regions and cost at least $14 trillion per year worldwide by 2100 unless drastic measures curb climate change, a study released Tuesday found.
The study, published in Environmental Research Letters, examined what could happen if critical climate goals are not met worldwide.
The 2016 Paris Agreement within the United Nations framework set the goal to hold a global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius this century. It also set a target of driving efforts for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Failure to meet these goals will result in dire economic consequences, according to the authors of the study, led by the UK National Oceanographic Centre (NOC).
Developing nations and low coastline areas would see extreme sea level changes and flooding that could impact more than 600 million people living in areas less than 32 feet above sea level, the study found.
“In a warming climate, global sea level will rise due to melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets, and from the thermal expansion of ocean waters,” NOC scientist Dr. Svetlana Jevrejeva said in a statement. “So, sea level rise is one of the most damaging aspects of our warming climate.”
If global partners can keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C by 2100, sea levels will rise by 1.7 feet on average – but missing that target could mean a rise of 2.8 to 5.9 feet. Upper-middle-income countries such as China would see the largest increase in flood costs, while higher-income countries would suffer the least because of existing coastal protections and infrastructure, according to the study.
The study also broke down rising sea level projections into annual flood costs – a median sea level rise of 2.8 feet would cost $14 trillion per year, while a 5.9-foot rise would cost $27 trillion.
Jevrejeva said, “Small, low-lying island nations such as the Maldives will be very easily affected, and the pressures on their natural resources and environment will become even greater.”
In a separate study, researchers asked if air conditioning compounds the damage of climate change, projecting as many as a thousand additional deaths each year in the eastern United States alone due to heightened levels of air pollution.
The study published Tuesday in the journal Public Library of Science (PLOS) Medicine found air conditioning will exacerbate air pollution as temperatures warm, resulting in an additional 13,000 deaths from higher summer levels of fine particulate matter, plus 3,000 deaths caused by ozone in the eastern United States by mid-century.
Projections from five different models forecasted more use of fossil fuels, poorer air quality and a negative impact to human health just a few decades into the future.