Climate change threatens about half of the world's beaches, which may even disappear by the end of the century, warned one study published this Monday in the scientific journal Nature. By 2050, the consequences may already be visible, with shorelines facing 10 to 12% “extreme erosion”, becoming unrecognizable.
According to the study carried out by the European Commission's Joint Research Center, in partnership with Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch universities, the size of the lost beach will vary depending on the location. Many of the most populated beaches, such as the east coast of the United States, southern Asia and central Europe, may experience a 100-meter coastline retreat by 2100.
We consider the 100-meter threshold because, if erosion exceeds 100 meters, it means that, most likely, the beach will disappear, ”explained Michalis Vousdoukas, co-author of the study, in statements to the CNN, in a view that considers “conservative”.
To reach these conclusions, scientists took into account the sea level over time, natural processes, such as erosion and the geology of beaches, and human factors, such as buildings. The rise in sea water level, however, is expected to exceed all other factors.
“The coast that we see today is just an instant in time. Our beaches, swamps and estuaries retreat and advance in response to changing sea levels and have been doing so since the beginning of time, ”Robert Young, a geologist not involved in the study, told CNN.
When the human being occupies these areas, the capacity of movement and adaptation of these beaches is disturbed – the urbanized beaches are the ones that suffer the most, since they have buildings and roads very close to the sea line.
Some of these sites have tried to reverse the situation by dumping several tons of sand in the most affected areas or by building walls to keep the existing sand on the site. According to the scientists, all these actions will not be able to prevent the consequences of the rise of the water level and the intensification of the storms.
Right now, what we're trying to do everywhere is keep the coastline in place. But over the next few decades, we won't be able to do that, even if we want to, ”lamented Young.
According to the study, rising sea levels will have the greatest impact in Australia, where about 50% of the country's coastline is expected to be at risk by 2100. Chile, China, the United States, Russia, Mexico and Argentina will also face the same dangers.
Despite the prediction, the researchers concluded that humans could still reverse the situation. With the cuts in pollution predicted by world leaders, 22% of the expected losses by 2050 can be avoided. The amount could increase to 40% by 2100 if the Paris Agreement is fulfilled.