Flood Losses in Major Coastal Cities Could Top $50 Billion by 2050

By Valerie Smock
10/24/2013 11:39:13 AM

Whether it be an earthquake, wildfire or even a hurricane or tornado, the destruction can be devastating. These major events aren't just destructive, it's also bad when it come to how much it may cost you. In the future, flooding could prove to be even more detrimental on the wallet.

According to a study out this year, climate change combined with rapid population increases, economic growth and land subsidence could lead to a more than nine-fold increase in the global risk of floods in large port cities between now and 2050. The authors estimate present and future flood losses - or the global cost of flooding - in 136 of the world's largest coastal cities, taking into account existing coastal protections. Average global flood losses in 2005, estimated at about US$6 billion per year, could increase to US$52 billion by 2050 with projected socio-economic change alone.

Some major cities in the United States and around the world are at risk. The cities ranked most 'at risk' today, as measured by annual average losses due to floods, span developed and developing countries: Guangzhou, Miami, New York, New Orleans, Mumbai, Nagoya, Tampa-St. Petersburg, Boston, Shenzen, Osaka-Kobe and Vancouver. The countries at greatest risk from coastal city flooding include the United States and China. Some of these locations are responsible for more than 30 percent losses among the list of cities.

According to Dr. Stephane Hallegatte, from the World Bank and lead author of the study: "There is a limit to what can be achieved with hard protection: populations and assets will remain vulnerable to defence failures or to exceptional events that exceed the protection design." To help cities deal with disasters when they do hit, policy makers should consider early warning systems, evacuation planning, more resilient infrastructure and financial support to rebuild economies.