Baruch Researcher and Colleagues Estimate 634 Million People at Risk From Climate Change Storms

–Global Study Finds Tenth of World Population
Vulnerable to Rising Sea Levels, Cyclones–

New York, NY–March 28, 2007–Professor Deborah Balk, acting associate director of the CUNY Institute for Demographic Research (located at Baruch College) and an associate professor at Baruch’s School of Public Affairs, is one of three researchers publishing the first global study of populations at risk from rising sea levels and intense cyclones associated with climate change.

Balk and her colleagues, Gordon McGranahan of the International Institute for Environment and Development (UK), and Bridget Anderson, a researcher at Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science, will publish their findings in April in the peer-reviewed journal Environment and Urbanization. Their research has been made available to the press today.

Their research shows that 634 million people, one tenth of the global population, live in coastal areas that lie ten meters or fewer above sea level and are consequently the most vulnerable to the storms caused by climate change. Nearly two-thirds of urban settlements with more than five million inhabitants are at least partially in the 0-10 meter coastal zone.

The researchers’ analysis also found that of the populations most at risk, 75% are in Asia. Twenty-one nations, including 16 small island nations, have more than half their population in the 0 to 10 meter zone. The researchers determined that the populations of poor countries face greater risk than those of more developed nations.

The study points out that rapid urban development in coastal zones, such as that currently going on in southeast China, is particularly dangerous because it results in large numbers of people migrating to coastal zones, while simultaneously damaging the sensitive ecosystems that protect the coastline.

“The ability to map both human activities and environmental conditions globally has revolutionary possibilities,” Balk noted. “It is also very timely, given the emergence of global environmental challenges such as climate change.”

Balk and her colleagues analyzed the Global Rural-Urban Mapping Project databases of fine-scale information on population and urbanization along with census data and information derived from NASA’s Satellite Radar Topography Mission. They also used World Bank data on national income.

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