Flooding Poses Significant Risk To Life In Coastal Regions

Water is a double edged sword. On one hand it nourishes life. On the other, it can kill, rot and carry disease.

Coastal flooding has long been discussed as a repercussion of climate change resulting from melting land ice and thermal expansion. A collaborative study by The University Of Melbourne, The University Of Amsterdam and The Department of Water Science and Engineering, Netherlands revealed substantial flooding to occur by the end of the century.

It has long been known that the Netherlands and much of Europe is at risk of complete submergence, and if the current rate of sea-level rise holds, we can expect 1 metre of flooding in parts of the Dutch country by 2300. But the rate at which carbon emissions continue to be released, land ice calving may hasten faster than predicated outcomes.

Flooding of the Netherlands with and without 1 metre of flooding. Source: Flood maps

Instead, the paper revealed 48% of global land area and 52% of the world’s population at risk by 2100, as well as 68% of worldwide coastal areas at risk of flooding. 32% of this attributed to sea-level rise.

The results were indicated using global tide gauge data as well as the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change) intermediate (RCP 4.5 peak and decline in emissions by 2045) and worst-case scenario (RCP 8.5) emissions data.

The Delta Works, the world’s largest flood protection system is the Netherland’s first and only line of defence against rising sea levels. Comprising of an intricate system of dams, dykes and sluices, the Delta Works now faces remodelling and debate over whether it can keep the country safe.

Flooding in Sukkur, Pakistan. Photograph: DFID

A well-acknowledged truth in the study of GHGs (Greenhouse Gases) is that the world’s biggest carbon emitters are least likely to suffer from the effects of climate change. Much of Asia is at risk of flooding, drought, water scarcity and food insecurity as well as threats to its economic certainty. The IMF expects 11% GDP will be wiped from its value and says GHGs have profoundly increased over the past 20 years in Asia, at a rate of 5% per year.

The Global Climate Risk Index 2020 concluded 3 of the top 5 countries most affected by climate change in 2018 were located in Asia including Japan, Philipines and India.

India and Bangladesh before and after 2 metres of flooding. Source: Flood maps

The United Nations Development Programme voices concern over flood risks in several Asian countries. In Pakistan, flood risks increased due to accelerated melting of Himalayan glaciers. More than 2,000 people died as a consequence of the 2010 floods. Bangladesh is faced by ever-increasing sea-level rise and river flooding, as is India and both nations stare into the eye of Monsoons each year. India’s 2013 floods killed 6,500 people and Bangladesh has suffered a death toll of more than 8,000+ due to flooding between 1954 and 1998.

Even if new designs can be installed to fail oceanic flooding, the problem will not be to quell expanding sea-levels, but what to do about extreme weather patterns, and the behaviours they can inflict on populated areas. A better question would be, how to protect people and where to relocate populace areas?

It is an inescapable misfortune we must make sense of, but the kernel of the real problem, a political elephant in the room – is addiction to oil, coal and the trouble it produces.