Sunday, March 2, 2014

Flood damage cost to rise fivefold across Europe

Damian Carrington in the Guardian (UK): The huge cost of flood damage is set to soar fivefold across Europe in coming decades, according to the first comprehensive analysis of risk across the continent. The cost of homes, belongings, businesses and infrastructure wrecked by the wettest winter in England for 250 years has been at least £1bn and over the last decade the average annual loss across the European Union has been €4.5bn. But increasingly intense downpours driven by climate change, as well as population growth and urbanisation, will see that rise to €23bn a year by 2050, the study found.

The growing prosperity of citizens is also a factor, according to Brenden Jongman, a researcher at the VU University Amsterdam, who led the new work. “People increasingly have more expensive stuff – like expensive televisions and other gadgets – than they had 50 years ago,” he said.

The costs of damage could be curbed by better flood protection and insurance schemes, but faces political obstacles, according to Jongman. “For rare events [like England’s wettest winter on record] the chances of it happening within the term of one government is low, so the incentive for politicians to invest in flood protection is quite low,” he said. “The cost is upfront but the benefits are over decades.”

The UK’s coalition government cut annual flood defence spending sharply after entering office in 2010 and the Guardian revealed earlier in February that projects in flood-stricken areas from the Somerset Levels to the Thames valley were not built as a result.

The new research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, found that improving flood defences across the EU to resist once-a-century flooding would save €7bn a year by 2050 but cost just €1.75bn. In the UK, most flood defences save £8 for every £1 spent....

A 2013 flood in Passau, on the Danube, shot by Stefan Penninger, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr,  under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license 

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