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Adaptation now: River flood risks increase around the globe under future warming

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January 10, 2018  Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) read full ScienceDaily article here

Rainfall changes caused by global warming will increase river flood risks across the globe. Already today, fluvial floods are among the most common and devastating natural disasters. Scientists have now calculated the required increase in flood protection until the 2040s worldwide, breaking it down to single regions and cities. They find that the need for adaptation is greatest in the US, parts of India and Africa, Indonesia, and in Central Europe including Germany. Inaction would expose many millions of people to severe flooding.

…”We have been surprised to find that even in developed countries with good infrastructure the need for adaptation is big,” says co-author Anders Levermann,

….An increase in river flood risks over the next 2-3 decades will be driven by the amount of greenhouse-gases already emitted into the atmosphere, hence it does not depend on whether or not we limit global warming.”
However, it is clear that without limiting human-caused warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, river flood risks in our century will increase in many regions to a level that we cannot adapt to,” says Levermann. “To keep people safe climate-change-induced risks must be taken seriously and money must be spent for adaptation. If we act now, we can protect against the risks of the next two decades. But further climate change must be limited by cutting greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels to avoid risks that surpass our abilities to adapt.”…

Sven N. Willner, Anders Levermann, Fang Zhao, Katja Frieler. Adaptation required to preserve future high-end river flood risk at present levels. Science Advances, 2018; 4 (1): eaao1914 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aao1914

Abstract: Earth’s surface temperature will continue to rise for another 20 to 30 years even with the strongest carbon emission reduction currently considered. The associated changes in rainfall patterns can result in an increased flood risk worldwide. We compute the required increase in flood protection to keep high-end fluvial flood risk at present levels. The analysis is carried out worldwide for subnational administrative units. Most of the United States, Central Europe, and Northeast and West Africa, as well as large parts of India and Indonesia, require the strongest adaptation effort. More than half of the United States needs to at least double their protection within the next two decades. Thus, the need for adaptation to increased river flood is a global problem affecting industrialized regions as much as developing countries.

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