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Macau and Its Casinos Face Uncertain Future Due to Climate Change
Macau and its glittering Cotai Strip are particularly vulnerable to the deleterious impact of climate change. But it’s unclear what the special administrative region’s government is doing about it.

A 2015 report found that because of Macau’s small size, low elevation, and ongoing land reclamation, “global warming-related sea-level rises constitute a substantial threat.”

Macau is one of the most densely populated regions in the world, with 48,003 people per square mile, and the consequences of a direct hit from a future typhoon or tsunami could be devastating.

Macau Business reported Tuesday that in March 2015 the Macau government established a working group on climate change that included the Secretary for Transport and Public Works and Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau.

But since then, there has been no public comment from the group on the climate crisis facing the world’s biggest gambling hub – neither a report nor a set of recommendations. This is despite the impact of Typhoon Hato, which hit Macau two years later in 2017 and raised sea levels to record highs last seen in 1925.

Double the Risk
Hato left 16 dead in Macau, injured hundreds more, and caused an estimated $1.55 billion in damage to the enclave’s casino industry. Forecasters had failed to predict the severity of the storm and casinos were largely unprepared.

Researchers have suggested a rise in the sea level of just 5 cm would double the tsunami risk for Macau. They also believe sea levels could rise up to 51 cm by 2060.

In the future, the rate of SLR (sea level rise) in Macau will be about 20 per cent higher than the global average, as a consequence of a greater local warming tendency and strengthened northward winds,” suggested the 2015 report.

The study, called “Historical Change and Future Scenarios of Sea Level Rise in Macau and the Adjacent Waters,” is authored by scientists from Chinese and Hong Kong universities.

Reclaimed Land Exacerbates Problem
It’s not just Macau. The entire Pearl River Delta, including Hong Kong, is at risk from rising sea levels — as is any coastal lowland. But Macau has the largest number of land reclamation programs in the area, which exacerbates the problem.

The enclave’s famous Cotai Strip — home to its most lavish integrated resorts — is one such reclamation project, which joined the two islands of Coloane and Taipa on its completion in 2005.

Despite the vulnerability of the reclaimed land, the crowded Inner Harbor area in the west of the old part of Macau would likely be most impacted by flooding, according to the study.
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