Nearly half of the world’s sandy beaches are at risk of severe erosion by the year 2100, due in part to the effects of climate change, according to a study published in scientific journal Nature on Monday.
The study predicted that around half of the world’s sandy beaches will experience erosion of more than 100 meters, the lead author, Michalis Vousdoukas, told the Associated Press.
Vousdoukas added that many of these beaches will likely be lost.
A number of the sandy shoreline areas under threat are also in regions with dense populations that will have to adapt to the altered environment, the study said.
Some of the countries that will be especially vulnerable to severe shoreline erosion are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, and Pakistan. These countries depend heavily on their beaches for tourism revenue, the study noted.
"Apart from tourism, sandy beaches often act as the first line of defense from coastal storms and flooding, and without them, impacts of extreme weather events will probably be higher," Vousdoukas told Agence France-Presse.
Sea level rise is the main factor driving the erosion of sandy beaches over the next century, with the study noting that "there is a clear cause and effect relationship between increasing sea levels and shoreline retreat." Intense storms and other extreme weather patterns fueled by climate change will also contribute to the disruption of sandy coastlines.
However, moderate mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions could significantly reduce the projected shoreline retreat, the authors noted.
Countries can also take measures to bolster shorelines such as by planting mangroves, restoring coral reefs, and limiting commercial activity in sensitive areas.
Rising sea levels and the soil erosion that they cause has already begun displacing people, such as villagers in Myanmar. Pacific Island Nations have had to declare a climate crisis due to rising sea levels and other effects of climate change.
Worldwide, climate change is expected to displace billions of people by 2100, and has already cost the world over $100 billion due to natural disasters.