Journal article Open Access

Coastal Migration due to 21st Century Sea-Level Rise

Daniel Lincke; Jochen Hinkel

Rising mean and extreme sea-levels and induced increased coastal flooding are expected to lead to massive coastal migration if coasts are not protected. Using a wide range of sea-level rise (SLR) scenarios, socioeconomic pathways and discount rate assumptions, 21st century coastal migration is assessed at global scale assuming local cost-benefit optimal protection decisions for about 12,000 coastal segments with homogeneous coastal and socioeconomic characteristics. Costs considered include investment and maintenance cost for protection, migration cost in the case of no protection, and expected annual damage to assets by extreme sea-level events that over-top existing protection. Robust decisions in favor of protection over all scenarios are found for about 3% of the global coastline, covering 78% of global coastal population and 92% of global coastal floodplain assets. For the remaining 97% of global coastline cumulative 21st century land loss ranges from 60,000 to 415,000 km2 and coastal migration ranges from 17 to 72 million people. Big countries with long uninhabited coastlines suffer the biggest land losses. In absolute terms big countries in South and South-east Asia account for the highest coastal migration, while in relative terms small island nations suffer most. Global cost of 21st century SLR can be lowered by factor two to four if local cost-benefit decisions also consider, next to protection, coastal migration as an adaptation option.

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