Port of Osaka Bay, in Japan

Japan Times Editorial: Rising sea levels will transform our world

It is intuitive that climbing global temperatures will increase the pace of polar ice melt, which will in turn raise sea levels and flood coastal lands. Recent research reveals, however, that the scale of such flooding could be exponentially worse than previously anticipated. New data suggests that many countries, many of which are in Asia, will be transformed — literally — as coastlines are redrawn by rising waters and hundreds of millions of people will be forced from their homes. Japan will be hard hit by this development and must do more to mitigate its impact.

It has long been estimated that climate change-induced flooding would force about 80 million people from their homes in low-lying areas by the midway point of this century. Hardest hit will be the millions of people who live on small islands in the Pacific and Indian oceans that are only a meter or two above sea level and will vanish as water levels rise.

Previous studies had reckoned that “only” about 80 million people would be impacted by this change. New research by Climate Central, a United States-based nonprofit organization, indicates that a more accurate number is 300 million people and that figure could rise to 500 million by the end of this century under the worst scenarios.

The darkening outlook is not the product of pessimism about the level at which temperature increases will be stopped, but rather reflects greater accuracy in estimating land elevation and the realization that much coastal land is considerably lower than thought.

Read the full editorial here.