April 13, 2010

Read This Now: Pulling into Port

This week the Natural Security team is practicing our Da Vinci polyphasic sleep schedules as we close out two papers by Friday, so our posts may be a bit short and sweet this week. We have dug up a lot of really interesting reports and cool data over the past few weeks that we’ll feed into these reports, so we’ll try to share some of it with you. One of particular interest has been this report (PDF) from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), on port city vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change. The study provides information on more than 130 international ports most vulnerable to current environmental conditions and future climate change projections (including populations and assets).

Here are a few stats that I found the most interesting:

  • Of the 17 American port cities (including Washington D.C.) considered at risk, 12 are in the top 50 percent, most at risk populations. Six are in the top 25 percent. Three are in the top 10.
  • If projected sea level rise continues, more than 12.5 million people and 9 trillion dollars in assets could be at risk in the United States alone.
  • Canada could experience similar affects, with 6.5 million people and 337.8 million dollars in assets vulnerable to rising sea level by 2070.
  • The number one population most at risk, in present conditions, is Mumbai (Bombay), India with 2,787,000 people at risk.
  • With future projections, Mumbai falls back to number two, relinquishing the position to fellow Indian port Calcutta, with 14,014,000 people at risk (just 263,000 shy of its total population in 2005).
  • 12 of the port cities listed are in states ranked as “critical” in the 2009 Failed State Index, including: Bangladesh; Burma; North Korea; Cameroon; Guinea; Nigeria (the world’s 5th largest oil producer); Somalia; Lebanon; Pakistan and Haiti.

Beyond adding additional strain to already troubled states, this presents a real challenge to the United States, which featured the highest number of at risk port cities in the world. Note to self: check this list before my next big investment in coastal real estate.