Friday, April 14, 2017

Developers and politicians failing to protect against climate-related flood risk

[The Fifth Estate] European homes are at risk from flooding from two directions: on the coast from sea-level rise and storm surges; and in floodplains and valleys from run-off during periods of extreme rainfall.
New analysis detailed in journal Earth’s Future shows that the five million Europeans currently under threat from once in a century floods (like those experienced in May last like) could face the same risk once a decade by mid-century and every year by the end of the century, as the climate continues to change.
The research is the first to take into account not only sea level rise due to warming temperatures, but also the impacts of climate change on tides, storm surge and waves when estimating future flood risk.
The authors used observations of the different factors plus climate models to estimate how each factor might change along the coastlines of Europe under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.
They found existing coastal protection structures were not up sufficient for protecting the five million homes most vulnerable under high-end warming scenarios.
Governments and building owners in these areas therefore face a stark choice: increase defences or move. Developers need to wake up to the risk of continuing to build in these areas and planners need to question whether approvals should be granted for development. Insurers will need help if they are to continue to provide cover. And property owners are likely to see the value of their properties drop.
Seas are rising worldwide by about 3.2 millimetres a year, though rates vary from region to region because of local land rise and subsidence. If greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed, global seas could rise on average by 0.52 metres up to 0.98 metres by the end of the century, according to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.
In Europe, the North Sea region is projected to face the highest sea level rise – nearly one metre under a high emission scenario by 2100 – followed by the Baltic Sea and Atlantic coasts of the UK and Ireland. Sea level rise is the main cause of the flood risk, but even more intensive extremes of weather along most of northern Europe will also generate significant local effects.
Least affected will be southern Europe, with the exception of a projected decrease along the Portuguese coast and the Gulf of Cadiz, offsetting sea level rise by 20-30 per cent.
This conclusion confirms the result of a separate report from 10 years ago that the regions most prone to a rise in flood frequencies are northern to northeastern Europe, while southern and southeastern Europe show significant increases in drought frequencies.
The cost will be in the many billions. Storms Desmond, Eva and Frank, which battered parts of Britain between early December 2015 and early January 2016, caused damage estimated to cost insurers £1.3 billion (AU$1.66b) in claims. Multiplying this throughout Europe under the above scenario will see potential costs in the many billions. Read More