Coastlines in the United States do not face this threat by themselves; Coastlines throughout the world would be changed by rising sea levels. In general, the poorest regions would be the areas hardest hit, whereas wealthier regions would likely be able to adjust more effectively. For instance, the Netherlands is a very low-lying country. Large portions of its land were actually reclaimed from the sea through a system of extensive dikes and dams. These very dikes and dams, however, now provide protection from continued increases in sea levels. This is especially true because the Dutch are relatively wealthy, and they have the resources to expand their water control network. Thus, while "without any doubt . . . the Netherlands will experience potential impacts by rising sea levels," they also have "the technical and financial capacities" to respond to the danger.36
If seas were to rise by only 1.5 feet (45cm), which is at the low end of most predictions for the next century, Bangladesh would lose more than 7,500 square miles (about 19,425 sq. km) of land.
In contrast with the Netherlands, Bangladesh is a poor country without many flood control measures. In addition, the land itself is sinking, which adds to the impact of sea-level rise. Thus, if seas were to rise by only 1.5 feet (45cm), which is at the low end of most predictions for the next century, Bangladesh would lose more than 7,500 square miles (19,425 sq. km) of land. If sea level rises by 3.2 feet (1m), Bangladesh could suffer more than $5 billion worth of damage, which is about 10 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). In addition, rising seas would increase the salinity of the soil, causing crop failures in a nation that already has difficulty in feeding its people. "In view of Bangladesh's already problematic food situation, the expected decrease of rice production, as well as several hundred tons of vegetables, lentils, onions and other crops, could be disastrous," according to Sonja Butzengeiger and Britta Horstmann writing for Germanwatch, a nonprofit nongovernmental public policy organization.37
Bangladesh is an extreme case, but poorer nations throughout the world face similar dangers. For instance, in West Africa water may be contaminated and coastlines flooded as seas rise. Nigeria's capital city, Lagos, is only 16 feet (5m) above sea level. It is possible that in the next century a strong tropical storm will cause a surge by which "most of the 15 million inhabitants of Lagos will be displaced."38
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