Study: Warm­ing puts mil­lions more at risk from river floods


Global warm­ing will in­crease the risk of river flood­ing over the com­ing decades, en­dan­ger­ing mil­lions more peo­ple around the world, ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished Thurs­day.

Us­ing com­puter sim­u­la­tions, re­searchers in Ger­many ex­am­ined the im­pact of chang­ing rain­fall pat­terns by re­gion and found that flood de­fences will need to be im­proved par­tic­u­larly in the United States, parts of In­dia and Africa, In­done­sia and Cen­tral Europe.

River floods are al­ready one of the most wide­spread and dam­ag­ing forms of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters world­wide. Ad­di­tional pro­tec­tive mea­sures in­clude en­hanc­ing dykes, bet­ter river man­age­ment, im­prov­ing build­ing stan­dards and even mov­ing set­tle­ments, ac­cord­ing to the study pub­lished in the jour­nal Science Ad­vances.

The num­ber of peo­ple af­fected by the worst 10 per cent of river flood­ing will dou­ble from 76 mil­lion to 156 mil­lion in Asia alone by 2040, said the au­thors at the Pots­dam In­sti­tute for Cli­mate Im­pact Re­search. In North Amer­ica the num­ber of peo­ple at risk could in­crease ten­fold, from 100,000 to a mil­lion.

“The real num­bers might be even higher in the fu­ture as pop­u­la­tion growth and fur­ther ur­ban­iza­tion is not taken into ac­count,” they said.

Re­searchers said even in de­vel­oped coun­tries with good in­fra­struc­ture the need for adap­ta­tion is big. They also warned that the risk of rivers flood­ing will rise re­gard­less of cur­rent ef­forts to curb cli­mate change be­cause of green­house gases al­ready emit­ted in past decades.

Still, a fail­ure to keep global warm­ing be­low 2 de­grees Cel­sius ( 3.7 Fahren­heit) may re­sult in changes to river flood­ing pat­terns that pop­u­la­tions can’t adapt to, the au­thors said.

“The time has come where mit­i­gat­ing fu­ture cli­mate change must be ac­com­pa­nied by adapt­ing to the cli­mate change that we al­ready caused,” said An­ders Lev­er­mann, one of the study’s au­thors.


In this Jan. 8 file photo taken with a drone shows the flooded vil­lage of Rees at river Rhine.

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