Half of world’s sandy beaches ‘could disappear by end of the century’

Rob Waugh
Contributor
The world's sandy beaches are under threat. (Getty)

Soaking up the sun on a sandy beach could become a thing of the past, researchers have warned.

A study has suggested that half of the world’s beaches could disappear by the end of the century due to coastal erosion caused by climate change.

Popular holiday destinations such as the Aegean Islands could be among those affected, the scientists warned.

Read more: These 10 popular beaches could disappear due to climate change

The study, published in Nature Climate Change, says erosion is already a major problem, and will worsen with the rising sea levels brought about by climate change. 

In 30 years time, erosion will have destroyed 22,430 miles of beaches or 13% of coastlines spotted in satellite images. 

In the second half of next century, another 25.7% of Earth’s beaches will wash away, The Guardian reported.

Scientists from the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission's science and knowledge service, analysed 35 years of coastal satellite observations, plus 82 years of climate and sea level projections from several climate models. 

Read more: Third of Britons believe climate change will lead to human extinction

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. 

Sandy beaches cover more than 30% of the world's coastlines.

They also serve as natural buffer zones that protect the coastline and back-shore 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.

Read more: Sea level rise is inevitable, but we can prevent catastrophe for coastal regions

The projected changes, fuelled by a growing population and urbanisation along coastlines, are likely to result in more people's homes and livelihoods being impacted by coastal erosion in the decades to come.

The scientists simulated more than 100 million storm events and measured the resulting global coastal erosion.

Beaches in Greece could be under threat. (Getty)

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.

Small island nations are among the more vulnerable regions.

Read more: Hawaiian island vanishes in storm amid rising sea levels

In most parts of the world, projected shoreline dynamics are dominated by sea level rise. 

But in certain regions the effects of climate change are counteracted by “accretive ambient shoreline changes” – the build-up of sandy beaches from sediments arriving due to other natural or anthropogenic factors. 

This is true for areas of the Amazon, East and South-East Asia, and the North Tropical Pacific.