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
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