The ongoing climate crisis is on course to destroy half the world’s sandy beaches by the end of the century, a new study warns.
Sandy shorelines of many high-population areas and tourist hot-spots are threatened by erosion, climate change and surging sea levels.
At-risk areas include Surfers’ Paradise in Queensland, St Tropez, Honolulu, Copacabana, the Costa del Sol and Weymouth.
But researchers offer a glimmer of hope and believe a moderate reduction in greenhouse gas emissions could prevent 40 per cent of the predicted loss.
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Pictured, the percentage of sandy beach coastline projected to experience critical erosion by country under RCP4.5 by 2100. Deep red is >90%, yellow is ~50% and blue is between five and 15 per cent
Pictured, the percentage of sandy beach coastline projected to experience critical erosion by country under the worst-case RCP8.5 scenario by 2100. Deep red is >90%, yellow is ~50% and blue is between five and 15 per cent
Sandy shorelines of many high-populated areas and tourist hot-spots are threatened by erosion, climate change and surging sea levels. At-risk areas include Surfers’ Paradise in Queensland, Honolulu, Copacabana, the Costa del Sol (pictured, Nerja beach) and Weymouth
Researchers from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra in northern Italy analysed 30 years worth of satellite images of sandy beaches.
Study author Dr Michalis Vousdoukas, who led the research, said: ‘The results indicate around 50 per cent of the world’s sandy beaches are at risk of severe erosion.
‘Half of the world’s beaches could disappear by the end of the century under current trends of climate change and sea level rise.
‘The situation can become more critical for small communities highly reliant on tourism.’
Sandy beaches occupy more than a third of the global coastline and are valuable in many ways as they provide economic income via recreation and tourism.
They are also very environmentally valuable as they provide natural protection from storms and cyclones.
However, erosion, sea level rises and changing weather threaten the coast’s infrastructure and people.
The ongoing climate crisis is on course to destroy half the world’s sandy beaches by the end of the century, a new study warns. Australia will be worst affected, including the iconic Surfer’s Beach (pictured)
British beach hotspots such as Weymouth (pictured) and Dorset are also at risk of being decimated by climate change and erosion. Between a quarter and a half of the UK’s sandy beaches will retreat by more than a hundred metres over the next century, one expert warns
Researchers from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Ispra in northern Italy analysed 30 years worth of satellite images on sandy beaches. Hawaii (pictured) is one of the places with beach shores that could lose its sands as climate change worsens
Some countries will be worse hit than others, with The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau facing the loss of over 60 per cent of their white sandy beaches.
Overall, Australia would be worst hit with around 7,500 miles (12,000 km ) of beach at risk.
Canada, Chile, Mexico, China and the United States would also be greatly affected.
‘Between a quarter and a half of the UK’s sandy beaches will retreat by more than a hundred metres over the next century, depending on how rapidly the polar ice sheets melt,’ according to Professor Andrew Shepherd, Director of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling at the University of Leeds.
The researchers used computer modelling systems to forecast how the beaches, in their currently depleted state, would deteriorate as climate change worsens.
Two eventualities of ‘representative concentration pathways (RCP)’ for global warming were predicted, each representing a future of varying severity.
RCP8.5 is the highest level of projected greenhouse gas emissions and RCP4.5 features less intense emissions that span over a long period of time.
Researchers looked at how human activity and geological processes causes shoreline retreat as well as the damage caused by storms to make their findings.
Dr Suzana Ilic at Lancaster University said: ‘This new research shows that about 30 per cent and 60 per cent of low lying areas fronted by sandy beaches will be seriously threatened by erosion, due to climate change under the high emission of greenhouse gases by the middle and the end of the 21st century respectively.’
Moderate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions may prevent 40 per cent of this loss, the study authors suggest.
Dr Ilic, who was not involved in the study, added: ‘It is encouraging to see that reducing emissions from a high to moderate level will result in a reduction of the projected shoreline retreat of 22 per cent by 2050 and 40 per cent by 2100.’
The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
HOW MUCH WILL SEA LEVELS RISE IN THE NEXT FEW CENTURIES?
Global sea levels could rise as much as 1.2 metres (4 feet) by 2300 even if we meet the 2015 Paris climate goals, scientists have warned.
The long-term change will be driven by a thaw of ice from Greenland to Antarctica that is set to re-draw global coastlines.
Sea level rise threatens cities from Shanghai to London, to low-lying swathes of Florida or Bangladesh, and to entire nations such as the Maldives.
It is vital that we curb emissions as soon as possible to avoid an even greater rise, a German-led team of researchers said in a new report.
By 2300, the report projected that sea levels would gain by 0.7-1.2 metres, even if almost 200 nations fully meet goals under the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Targets set by the accords include cutting greenhouse gas emissions to net zero in the second half of this century.
Ocean levels will rise inexorably because heat-trapping industrial gases already emitted will linger in the atmosphere, melting more ice, it said.
In addition, water naturally expands as it warms above four degrees Celsius (39.2°F).
Every five years of delay beyond 2020 in peaking global emissions would mean an extra 20 centimetres (8 inches) of sea level rise by 2300.
‘Sea level is often communicated as a really slow process that you can’t do much about … but the next 30 years really matter,’ lead author Dr Matthias Mengel, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, in Potsdam, Germany, told Reuters.
None of the nearly 200 governments to sign the Paris Accords are on track to meet its pledges.