Climate Refugees

Sea-Level Rise and Forced Migration

Bangkok, Thailand

Thailand is 5 feet above sea level and is sinking at a rate of 0.8 inches every year. A 2015 report from Thailand’s National Reform Council estimates that the city could be completely submerged by 2100 due to sinking land and rising sea levels, which would cause the displacement of 14 million residents.51

Jakarta, Indonesia

According to a report by Indonesia’s Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, approximately 24 islands have been lost to sea-level rise between 2005 and 2007.52 In Jakarta, a city of 10 million people, a combination of unchecked groundwater extraction and rising sea levels is causing the city to sink between 2.9 and 6.7 inches a year.53 In 2015, the city started to phase a 30- to 40- year plan to build the Garuda Seawall shielding the city.54

London, England

Melting polar ice sheets and mountain glaciers could increase sea levels significantly over the coming decades, leading to a 1 in 20 chance that the Thames Barrier (in London) would be unable to cope with an extreme storm surge.55

Maldives, Indian Ocean

In midlevel global warming scenarios, the Maldives will likely experience a sea-level rise of around half a meter by about 2100, swallowing up to 77 percent of its land area. If the sea levels rise by 1 meter [or 39.37 inches], the Maldives could be almost completely inundated by 2085.56

Manhattan, United States

verage sea levels have risen about 1.2 inches per decade in the city since 1900. This is almost twice the average global rate of 0.5 to 0.7 inches per decade. Sea levels around New York City will rise 11 to 21 inches by the middle of the century, 18 to 39 inches by the 2080s, and up to 6 feet by 2100.57

Mumbai, India

The United Nations shows that by 2050, 40 million Indians (primarily within the major cities of Mumbai and Kolkata) will be adversely affected by rising sea levels. Projections indicate that coastal storms and flooding will become more severe.58

Shanghai, China

Climate Central estimates that 76 percent of the Shanghai region’s current population lives in areas that would eventually be underwater if the earth warms by 4°C by 2100.59

Tuvalu, Pacific Ocean

A UN report shows that current projections of sea-level rise would inundate Tuvalu by the end of the twenty-first century, causing it to be among the first nations in modern history to drown.60 According to a report sponsored by the Australian government, sea levels have been increasing by 5 millimeters per year since 1993, a significant increase for the island state that lays a mere 2 meters above sea level.61 Hence, some researchers predict that Tuvalu’s islands will be completely immersed by 2100.62