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The coastal city of Las Palmas of Gran Canaria
Source: Jacopo Scafura
The coastlines of the world offer a great variety of services to humankind: from transport routes and industrial sites, to favored destinations for recreation and tourism, to mineral extractions and energy generation. For all these reasons, coasts have always been especially popular sites for human settlement and today, around 2.8 billion people live within 100 kilometers of a coast while of the 20 megacities in the world with populations of more than ten million, 13 are situated near a coast.
The increasing number of people moving to the coast and their economical activities, require a constant (and always greater) demand of resources that in many cases exceeds the carrying capacity of areas that often lack an adequate management. One of the biggest problems of this continuous urbanization has been the increasing frequency of floods that affected entire urban districts and caused significant damages to people, ecosystems and infrastructures.
Added to this phenomenon are those driven by climate change: ocean warming, ocean acidification and sea-level rise. While the first two phenomena have strong negative impacts on the natural system, the greatest direct threat from coastal cities will come from sea-level rise which is likely to cause more frequent flooding and erosion in many regions.
The world’s coasts are threatened from many directions and in most cases human activities are the source of the problems. While it is important to conceive new measures to protect coastal areas from natural hazards, and guarantee a sustainable use and management of the activities developed along the coasts, it is essential that new commitments are taken to reduce carbon emissions to mitigate the effects of climate change from becoming an everyday reality.