Climate change is increasing flood risks in Europe

09 February 2018 | Adaptation

As humans continue to emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, the world continues to warm. We see that warming everywhere – in the atmosphere, in the oceans, with rising sea levels, and melting ice.

A very new study was just published, a research conducted by lead author Lorenzo Alfieri (European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Italy), Richard Betts (University of Exeter and Met Office, UK), and their colleagues.

In the study, the authors used what are called Impact Models to assess the risks of large-scale flooding. They focused their attention on Europe partly because there is a lot of hydrological information there, flood reporting is easily available, and predictions of future climate there are plentiful. The authors compared estimates of flood risk in Europe from three recent case studies; their comparison incorporated changes to future climate, expected damage, and population that will be affected in the flooding zones.

The authors obtained climate projections for Europe using state-of-the-art climate models. Next, they input the future climate into calculations that quantify flood risk and the impacts. Last, they compared the results that they obtained from their different damage calculation algorithms. The authors looked for areas where the calculations agreed or disagreed with each other. At the end of the day, they wanted to answer two key questions:

The researchers are quite certain regarding increased risks in the central and western parts of Europe but less certain about what will happen in the east. But the authors went a step further; they calculated the expected economic damage from future flooding for the three different temperature increases. They found that regardless of which model was used, there will be significant economic damage (in the range of tens to hundreds of billions of Euros per year) in the warming future. They also showed that the population affected in Europe by future flooding will grow significantly in the future. Roughly estimated, 500,000 to 1 million people are expected to be affected by flooding in the future climate.

What I like about this study is it tries to tackle the problem of quantifying a cost of climate change. We know humans are warming the planet. What we really want to know is what the effect is. Only by comparing costs of action to costs of inaction can we make wise decisions. So far, the research is telling us that it is much wiser to take action now to reduce warming (mitigation) than just ignore greenhouse gases and try to adapt to a harsh future climate. 

Studies like this give lie to people who claim that it is too expensive to take action on climate change. What this study shows is it may be too expensive to do nothing.



Source: The Guardian