x

For thousands of years people have fantasized about finding the lost underwater city of Atlantis. It looks like their theory was a few centuries too early. A recent report estimates that by 2060, over a billion people will be threatened by sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Experts argue that, based on global emissions and how our climate responds, we could experience dozens of centimeters to several meters of sea level rise by 2100. However, “sea-level rise this century is irreversible and unavoidable.”

Hurricane Sandy floods Casino Pier in Seaside Heights in Ocean County, New Jersey. (Photo Credit: Creative Commons)

Hurricane Sandy floods Casino Pier in Seaside Heights in Ocean County, New Jersey. (Photo Credit: Creative Commons)

There are two important things to consider when thinking about vulnerability to natural disasters: the number of people who will be affected and the potential financial losses (in risk reduction literature this is called value at risk).

In terms of human exposure, Asian cities like Kolkata, India; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Guangzhou, China; and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, house the most vulnerable populations. The report estimates that each of these cities will have over nine million at-risk citizens by 2070.

Severe flooding during the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand. In this photo, an SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter flies around the Bangkok area. (Photo Credit: Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Villalovos)

Severe flooding during the 2011 monsoon season in Thailand. In this photo, an SH-60F Sea Hawk helicopter flies around the Bangkok area. (Photo Credit: Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Villalovos)

However, when we consider value at risk the U.S. tops the list, with Miami and New York/Newark ranked as two of the three most vulnerable cities in the world. The study suggests that by 2070, these two cities will have over $3.5 trillion and $2.1 trillion dollars of assets exposed to the risks of coastal flooding, respectively.

The world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters, (China, the U.S. and India) will bear the biggest coastal flooding-related financial burdens, however poor people all over the world, especially in Asia, will be most affected. In fact, we are already losing land to rising tides.

Flooding in downtown Nashville, Tennessee following torrential rains in May 2010. (Image: Kaldari / WikiMedia Commons)

Flooding in downtown Nashville, Tennessee following torrential rains in May 2010. (Image: Kaldari / WikiMedia Commons)

The United Nations estimates that climate adaptation in developing countries alone could cost as much as $500 billion per year by 2050. Where will all this money come from?

According to a recent Oxfam report, COP21 failed to define “quantified goals to ensure adaptation finance” for developing countries. Oxfam suggests that we can ramp up funding by increasing foreign grants and aid, as well as funneling more cash through financial mechanisms. 

People walk through Jakarta's flooded streets, Indonesia, January 17, 2013. (Photo Credit: VOA Indonesian Service via WikiMedia Commons)

People walk through Jakarta’s flooded streets, Indonesia, January 17, 2013. (Photo Credit: VOA Indonesian Service via WikiMedia Commons)

Given the size of investment needed to prepare the entire planet for the risks of climate change, we need to connect capital markets with climate adaptation. By creating innovative financial mechanisms that channel private investment into resiliency projects we can better prepare ourselves for the uncertainties to come.

Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS
FROM THE FRONT LINES

#KnowYourPlanet

Get the top stories from Planet Experts — right to your inbox every week.

Send this to a friend