MORE than a billion people are likely to be exposed to coastal flooding by 2060, through a combination of rising sea-levels, storm surges, and extreme weather patterns, Christian Aid has concluded in a new report.
Act Now Or Pay Later: Protecting a billion people in climate-threatened coastal cities, published on Monday to mark the start of Christian Aid Week, warns that inhabitants of the largest carbon-polluting countries in the world — the United States, China, and India — are most at risk of the effects of climate change.
Miami, in Florida, and Kolkata, in Bengal, India, are listed as the coastal cities most vulnerable to serious flooding by 2070, in projections supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The US and China are also forecast to suffer the worst financial losses as a result of coastal flooding, with £3.9 trillion and £2.37 trillion of assets at risk, respectively, the report states.
The UK is ranked in the top 25 coastline countries most at risk of future flooding. London is particularly vulnerable, it says, where tidal flooding is currently protected by the Thames Barrier.
“Climate change could put this protection at risk,” Christian Aid warns. “It is estimated that 1.25 million people, and half a million properties are on floodplains in London.”
Surface flooding is also a concern in the capital, with an estimated 800,000 properties at risk from increased rainfall, which would put pressure on drainage and infrastructure in the city. Climate change could also lead to health problems and water shortages, and present threat to the financial sector as businesses struggle to cope with changing conditions, the report states.
“These are predictable impacts. With the right measures in place, adaptation can be implemented ahead of the climate extremes predicted for coming decades.”
The author of the report and the principal Climate Change Adviser at Christian Aid, Dr Alison Doig, said that the figures should be a wake-up call in advance of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, next week.
“We are facing a head-on collision between the growth of coastal urban areas and climate change, which makes coastal flooding more likely,” she said.
“Cruelly, it will be the poor that will suffer the most. Although the financial cost to cities in rich countries will be crippling, wealthier people will at least have options to relocate and receive insurance protection.”
The report recommends risk management through early-warning systems and disaster-proof infrastructure. The charity is currently working with its partners in Bangladesh and the Philippines to build flood-resistant homes, and raise awareness among the poor and vulnerable.
Dr Doig said: “The first thing we can do is speed up the global transition away from dirty fossil-fuels to the clean, renewable energy of the future.”