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Islands & Coasts

Global warming will cause sea level to rise as result of melting ice and a thermal expansion of the oceans. Higher sea levels will threaten small low-lying islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Island nations such as the Maldives and the Pacific atolls lie only a few metres above sea level. Increased storm damage will pose the most immediate risk, but ultimately such islands may become completely submerged.

Low-lying coastal regions of the world are also under threat from sea level rise, storm damage and tidal surges. Some of the most vulnerable land is found in unprotected, densely populated and economically productive coastal regions of countries with poor financial and technological resources for responding to sea level rise, such as Bangladesh. The projected future rise in sea level may be only tens of centimetres, but this would be enough to put millions of people and millions of square kilometres of land at risk. The costs of protecting this land from the sea and preventing constant erosion and the salination of fresh groundwater supplies would be enormous. Additional investments would also be needed to adapt sewage systems and other coastal infrastructure. Rapid sea-level rise will also damage the coastal ecology, threatening important fisheries.