Monday, December 9, 2013

The Costs of Flood Damage will Rise Along with Sea Levels

Flooding is a very expensive corollary of global warming. While we cannot connect individual weather events directly to global warming, the storm that hit Europe in early December is nonetheless a powerful reminder of what the future will look like as the world continues to warm. Much of the billion dollars worth of damage caused by Xaver is due to flooding caused by storm surges.

As global warming continues and ice keeps melting, sea levels will keep rising which will increase the damage caused by storm surges. A warmer planet not only increases the volume of sea water, it is also expected to increase precipitation in places that need it least. As reported by 350.org, global warming has already raised global sea level about 20 cm since 1880, and the rate of rise is accelerating. Scientists expect roughly 60 to 210 more cm of sea level rise this century, depending on whether or not we can limit greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Flooding is a very costly phenomenon. A 2013 study in Nature concluded that flooding could cost the world’s cities $60 billion a year, even with major investments in flood protection. If we don’t make those investments, the cost could be up to $1 trillion a year.

These costs underscore the importance of moving away from energy sources that produce GHGs.  However fossil fuel companies in Europe and elsewhere are actively resisting efforts to engage more renewable sources of energy. As many in Europe are working to strengthen that continent's 2030 carbon reduction goals, fossil fuel interests like the Magritte Group, (a coalition of the CEOs of Europe's largest energy companies), are actively campaigning to decrease climate regulations.

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