Newswise — A study published in Nature Communications Earth & Environment on May 15, 2023, showed that human factors on the West African coast are causing greater vulnerability and flood risks than global climate change. The interdisciplinary team behind the study, in collaboration with West African experts and the CNES, conducted a pilot quantification study as part of the WACA-VAR1 research program. The findings emphasize the importance of regional and interdisciplinary cooperation to tackle this problem.

The study shows that human activities and socio-economic issues are contributing more to the rapid increase in vulnerability and flood risks on the West African coast than global climate change. While rising sea levels have been commonly blamed, the study found that the anthropisation of West African coasts, including human activities and socio-economic issues, is a major factor in increasing vulnerability and flood risks in the region.

To study the factors contributing to the increase in flood risks in West African coastal regions, the researchers relied on satellite data and simulations. They used data related to sea levels, topography, and socio-economic predictions to quantify how flood risks are changing over time. The simulations helped compare the impact of rising sea levels with that of socio-economic factors.

The results showed that socio-economic development in coastal areas with rapid anthropization appears to be a much greater threat than rising sea levels for increasing flood risk on the West African coast.

The research on sustainability science shows that the findings of the study can be applied to all West African countries, from Mauritania to Cameroon. The study emphasizes the need for a coordinated action plan that considers both environmental and socio-economic factors to address the increasing flood risks in the region. Taking no action would be more expensive in the long run than implementing an organized adaptation plan. Therefore, the key elements of such a plan would be conserving the coastal environment and implementing reforms to socio-economic development.

Journal Link: Communications Earth & Environment