Worldwide economic losses from river flooding could increase 20-fold by the end of the 21st century if no further actions on flood risk reduction are taken. Over 70% of this increase can be attributed to economic growth in flood prone areas.
The study was published today by a Dutch research team in Nature Climate Change, and gives an overview of river flood risk all over the world until the end of the 21st century.
Dr. Hessel Winsemius (Deltares): ‘Our conclusions show that besides keeping global warming well below 2 degrees Celsius target, as negotiated during the COP21 meeting to reduce adverse effects of climate change, a lot of future risk can be prevented by spatial planning and flood resilient building in the rapidly growing economies in flood-prone regions.’
How economic growth affects flood risk
River flood risk is on the one hand caused by flood events, occurring with a certain frequency and severity; and on the other by the exposure of people and economy to these events. Whilst the frequency and severity of flood events is impacted by climate change, the exposed people and economy may grow as well, resulting in more assets and economic production located in harm’s way.
The Dutch research team specifically paid attention to the fact that economic growth not only causes increase in risk, it also results in a better ability to cope with these events. Therefore, the researchers investigated in particular where economic growth is disproportionately large in flood prone areas and how this affects risk, relative to a country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Dr. Philip Ward (Free University Amsterdam): ‘The study shows that we need to continue developing innovative strategies to reduce risk, not only focusing on climate change, but focusing on all drivers of risk.’