Publication Details

This book chapter was orginally published as Nicholls, RJ, Wong, PP, Burkett, VR, Codignotto, J, Hay, J, McLean, R, Ragoonaden, S, and Woodroffe, CD, Coastal systems and low-lying areas, in Parry, ML, Canziani, OF, Palutikof, JP, van der Linden, PJ, and Hanson, CE (ed) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, 2007, 315-356. Original publisher information available here


Since the IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR), our understanding of the implications of climate change for coastal systems and low-lying areas (henceforth referred to as ‘coasts’) has increased substantially and six important policy-relevant messages have emerged. Coasts are experiencing the adverse consequences of hazards related to climate and sea level (very high confidence). Coasts are highly vulnerable to extreme events, such as storms, which impose substantial costs on coastal societies [6.2.1, 6.2.2, 6.5.2]. Annually, about 120 million people are exposed to tropical cyclone hazards, which killed 250,000 people from 1980 to 2000 [6.5.2]. Through the 20th century, global rise of sea level contributed to increased coastal inundation, erosion and ecosystem losses, but with considerable local and regional variation due to other factors [6.2.5, 6.4.1]. Late 20th century effects of rising temperature include loss of sea ice, thawing of permafrost and associated coastal retreat, and more frequent coral bleaching and mortality [6.2.5]. Coasts will be exposed to increasing risks, including coastal erosion, over coming decades due to climate change and sea-level rise (very high confidence). Anticipated climate-related changes include: an accelerated rise in sea level of up to 0.6 m or more by 2100; a further rise in sea surface temperatures by up to 3°C; an intensification of tropical and extra-tropical cyclones; larger extreme waves and storm surges; altered precipitation/run-off; and ocean acidification [6.3.2]. These phenomena will vary considerably at regional and local scales, but the impacts are virtually certain to be overwhelmingly negative [6.4, 6.5.3].