IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

9.4.6 Coastal zones

In Africa, highly productive ecosystems (mangroves, estuaries, deltas, coral reefs), which form the basis for important economic activities such as tourism and fisheries, are located in the coastal zone. Forty percent of the population of West Africa live in coastal cities, and it is expected that the 500 km of coastline between Accra and the Niger delta will become a continuous urban megalopolis of more than 50 million inhabitants by 2020 (Hewawasam, 2002). By 2015, three coastal megacities of at least 8 million inhabitants will be located in Africa (Klein et al., 2002; Armah et al., 2005; Gommes et al., 2005). The projected rise in sea level will have significant impacts on these coastal megacities because of the concentration of poor populations in potentially hazardous areas that may be especially vulnerable to such changes (Klein et al., 2002; Nicholls, 2004). Cities such as Lagos and Alexandria will probably be impacted. In very recent assessments of the potential flood risks that may arise by 2080 across a range of SRES scenarios and climate change projections, three of the five regions shown to be at risk of flooding in coastal and deltaic areas of the world are those located in Africa: North Africa, West Africa and southern Africa (see Nicholls and Tol, 2006; for more detailed assessments, see Warren et al., 2006).

Other possible direct impacts of sea-level rise have been examined (Niang-Diop et al., 2005). In Cameroon, for example, indications are that a 15% increase in rainfall by 2100 would be likely to decrease the penetration of salt water in the Wouri estuary (République de Côte d’Ivoire, 2000). Alternatively, with an 11% decrease in rainfall, salt water could extend up to about 70 km upstream. In the Gulf of Guinea, sea-level rise could induce overtopping and even destruction of the low barrier beaches that limit the coastal lagoons, while changes in precipitation could affect the discharges of rivers feeding them. These changes could also affect lagoonal fisheries and aquaculture (République de Côte d’Ivoire, 2000). Indian Ocean islands could also be threatened by potential changes in the location, frequency and intensity of cyclones; while East African coasts could be affected by potential changes in the frequency and intensity of ENSO events and coral bleaching (Klein et al., 2002). Coastal agriculture (e.g., plantations of palm oil and coconuts in Benin and Côte d’Ivoire, shallots in Ghana) could be at risk of inundation and soil salinisation. In Kenya, losses for three crops (mangoes, cashew nuts and coconuts) could cost almost US$500 million for a 1 m sea-level rise (Republic of Kenya, 2002). In Guinea, between 130 and 235 km2 of rice fields (17% and 30% of the existing rice field area) could be lost as a result of permanent flooding, depending on the inundation level considered (between 5 and 6 m) by 2050 (République de Guinée, 2002). In Eritrea, a 1 m rise in sea level is estimated to cause damage of over US$250 million as a result of the submergence of infrastructure and other economic installations in Massawa, one of the country’s two port cities (State of Eritrea, 2001). These results confirm previous studies stressing the great socio-economic and physical vulnerability of settlements located in marginal areas.