Preference and Risks of Coastal Population Distribution: A Systematic Assessment of Population and Land Area in Urban and Rural Areas of Coastal Zones

Deborah L. Balk, Baruch College, City University of New York (CUNY)
Gordon McGranahan, International Institute for Environment and Development
Bridget Anderson, Columbia University

Human settlement has long been drawn to resource-rich coastal areas. But coastal regions also experience seaward hazards, including sea level rise and extreme weather events that are expected to increase as a result of climate change. We have shown elsewhere that coastal zones exhibit higher population densities, in both urban and rural areas than any other major ecologically defined zone. In this study, we show that about one person in ten globally lives in the most vulnerable low elevation portions of coastal zones—i.e., below ten meters. We integrate several new spatially-explicit databases and analyze them to assess population distribution and change over the past decade in low elevation coastal zones, with particular attention to urban settlements. The paper explains the methodology for data integration and analysis, presents new findings by different types of coastal vulnerabilities (poverty, delta regions vs. island, and city sizes), and discusses implications for policy.

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Presented in Session 161: Population Consequences of Global Warming