Extreme floods to increase economic loss 166 times in coastal megacities: IPCC

These cities with over 10 million populations, including Mumbai, are likely to lose at least $1 trillion annually by 2050, finds the report
A flooded road in Mumbai. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A flooded road in Mumbai. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Economic losses due to extreme flooding will soar 166 times more by 2050, unless world's coastal megacities adapt to a climate change, warned a recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). 

India's financial capital, Mumbai, will also be among those bearing the brunt, according to the IPCC’s Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC). 

In fact, floods in the city between 2005 and 2015 caused a loss of Rs 14,000 crore, according to a study submitted to Maharashtra government last month.

Currently, the cities lying in the coastal region, with over 10 million populations, are losing at least $6 billion every year. But, without an effective coping or adaptation plan in place, they will likely lose at least $1 trillion annually by the middle of this century, noted the IPCC report

Besides megacities, developing small and mid-sized cities are also vulnerable to extreme floods, according to the report. Even though they are growing at a much faster rate, they are the least prepared due to limited finances and lack of political will, noted the report.

More than half the global population live in cities, most of which are located in low-lying islands and coasts. They will be affected by sea level changes, storms and other weather and climate-related hazards.

Extreme floods will degrade the coastal landscape and as a result of this, the real estate value of the coastal property will decline, the report stated.

This means that property owners will earn less from rentals of the properties. Business, too, will be prone to loss in such regions resulting in decrease in local employment. As a result, the availability of insurance, will also be impacted. 

In fact, Mumbai in 2005 floods reported one of the largest insurance loss ever in India — $0.9 billion, according a report by Swiss Re Institute. 

The impact of floods will also affect coastal cities that are centres of global trade. It will impact their regional and national economy, warned the IPCC report. In 2011 floods in Bangkok caused a direct loss of $46.5 billion to Thailand's economy, while the supply chains across the globe were also disrupted.

The report also showed that sea level may rise 1.1 metre by 2100, if countries are not able to restrict emissions “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as stated in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

This is likely to have a direct impact on the lives of 680 million people living in low-lying coastal zones, the report warned.

Hence, it advocates for transformative adaptation, which includes fundamental modifications in the policies, policy-making processes, institutions, human behaviour and cultural values.

Urbanisation can also provide an opportunity for reducing the risks, claims the report. Cities could be developed as “centres of innovation” with political will and engaging private sector, while innovative approach to create “climate resilient cities” is an urgent need of the hour, stated the report.

Stakeholders like government, the private sector, civil society, affected communities and scientific community, all must come together to bring out transformational changes in the adaptation and mitigation options in view of the climate that is undoubtedly changing.

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