The annual report from the State Oceanic Administration on China’s rising sea levels brings no surprises and no cheer in equal measure. Sea levels continue to rise faster than the global average. By the middle of this century, they are forecast to be 145mm-200mm higher. That doesn’t sound much but is sufficient to flood 87,000 square kilometers (34,000 square miles) of lowlands, or about 10% of coastal provinces’ land area. More than 1,300 seaside townships, 2,000 kilometers of rail lines and 22,000 kilometers of roads are at risk of being underwater. The Bohai Sea and the adjacent southwestern side of the Yellow Sea. and the waters around Hainan are rising fastest.
As we’ve noted before, urbanization, industrialization and overuse of groundwater is exacerbating the problem. Large cities are sinking because the water table below is sinking. too. All in all, coastal regions are left more vulnerable to the ravages of wind and rain. Typhoons affected more than 500 million people in southern China last year and caused more than 3.3. billion yuan ($520 million) of damage. In addition, river deltas such as the Yangtze’s and the Pearl’s will become more vulnerable to surges, salt tides and the salination of farmland and coastal forests.
Short of dealing with climate change, there are few hard defences against rising sea levels. Soft natural defences and restricting development in the most vulnerable areas is, as the SOE recommends, the most prudent course.