Climate change is increasing flood risks in Europe
A new study finds strong agreement that flood risks in central and western Europe are rising due to global warming.
As humans continue to emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, the world continues to warm. We see that warming everywhere – in the atmosphere, in the oceans, with rising sea levels, and melting ice. But while we know conclusively that humans are causing the warming, an equally important question is, “so what?” Really, we want to know the consequences of warming so that we can make informed decisions about what to do about it. We really have only three choices: mitigate, adapt, or ignore and suffer the consequences.
A very new study was just published that helps answer this question of “so what?” The research was conducted by lead author Lorenzo Alfieri (European Commission – Joint Research Centre, Italy), Richard Betts (University of Exeter and Met Office, UK), and their colleagues.
This means the researchers are quite certain regarding increased risks in the central and western parts of Europe but less certain about what will happen in the east. But the authors went a step further; they calculated the expected economic damage from future flooding for the three different temperature increases. They found that regardless of which model was used, there will be significant economic damage (in the range of tens to hundreds of billions of Euros per year) in the warming future. They also showed that the population affected in Europe by future flooding will grow significantly in the future. Roughly estimated, 500,000 to 1 million people are expected to be affected by flooding in the future climate.
What I like about this study is it tries to tackle the problem of quantifying a cost of climate change. We know humans are warming the planet. What we really want to know is what the effect is. Only by comparing costs of action to costs of inaction can we make wise decisions. So far, the research is telling us that it is much wiser to take action now to reduce warming (mitigation) than just ignore greenhouse gases and try to adapt to a harsh future climate.
Studies like this give lie to people who claim that it is too expensive to take action on climate change. What this study shows is it may be too expensive to do nothing.