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World - Study: Climate Change Will Affect Wave-Driven Coastal Erosion

The world’s coastlines are at the forefront of climate change. That’s because they’re constantly changing, and respond quickly to changes in climate.

They’re particularly important because around 70 percent of the world’s population live within 100 km of the coast, and 90 percent of the world’s trade passes through ports on the coast. The global economy relies on our coastal systems functioning because of the volume of trade and commerce that takes place at or through the coastal zone.

Change and disruption do not fall evenly across the globe, however. Our new research is the first to find a group of coastal locations around the world highly vulnerable to one specific climate-driven change: stronger waves, or waves coming from a different direction, which may cause widespread coastal erosion.

These changes will affect major ports and coastal cities such as Lima, Cape Town, Durban and Mombasa, as well as broadly affecting the Pacific-facing east coasts of Peru and Chile, the Atlantic-facing west coasts of Namibia and South Africa, and the southeast coast of Kenya down to South Africa.

Many of these locations are in developing nations with low GDP, making it harder to adapt or reduce damage from these changes. While some areas will be able to respond better than others, the combined GDP of countries most affected is only about one percent of global GDP. This speaks to how climate change can act as an inequality amplifier, hitting the Global South the hardest.

What’s the link between climate change and wave strength?

Our previous work found climate change is already making waves more powerful, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere.

How? Ocean waves are generated by winds blowing along the ocean surface. If the sea surface becomes warmer, wind patterns change as well. In turn, this can alter the wave conditions across the world’s oceans.

Read more.