Half of the world's beaches could disappear by the end of the century due to coastal erosion, according to a new study led by the JRC.
Erosion is a major problem facing sandy beaches that will worsen with the rising sea levels brought about by climate change.
According to the study, published today (2 Match) in Nature Climate Change, effective climate action could prevent 40% of that erosion.
Sandy beaches cover more than 30% of the world’s coastlines.
They are popular recreational spots for people and they provide important habitats for wildlife.
They also serve as natural buffer zones that protect the coastline and backshore coastal ecosystems from waves, surges and marine flooding.
Their role as shock absorbers will become more important with the rising sea levels and more intense storms expected with climate change.
However, climate change will accelerate erosion and could make more than half of the world’s sandy beaches completely vanish by the end of this century.
Fuelled by a growing population and urbanisation along coastlines, this is likely to result in more people’s homes and livelihoods being impacted by coastal erosion in the decades to come.
The findings come from the first global assessment of future sandy shoreline dynamics.
JRC scientists combined 35 years of satellite coastal observations with 82 years of climate and sea level rise projections from several climate models.
They also simulated more than 100 million storm events and measured the resulting global coastal erosion.
They found that reducing greenhouse gas emissions could prevent 40% of the projected erosion.
However, even if global warming is curbed, societies will still need to adapt and better protect sandy beaches from erosion.