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European Flood Costs to Quadruple by 205006 March 2014, by Ellen Keith
Europe can anticipate financial losses from flooding to more than quadruple by 2050. A new study published by European and Australian researchers in the journal Nature Climate Change indicates that crisis-level flooding is on the rise on the continent.
Although climate change will play a role in increased flooding, much of this damage will be attributed to human factors.
European countries underestimate flood risk
Brenden Jongman from Amsterdam’s VU University is the lead author for the publication. He and his team foresee a jump in large-scale flooding across the continent. Currently, disastrous flooding occurs approximately twice a century, but this may take place as often as once every 30 years in the near future.
Jongman believes that European countries are underestimating their risk of flooding because each nation uses varying methods and risk-assessment models in their studies: "... if you have very high flood risk in the UK," he argues, "there is also a very high risk in northern France, the Netherlands and some parts of Germany."
By analysing risk areas individually, scientists fail to consider that European rivers often simultaneously reach a dangerous water level, a fact which drastically increases the regional flood risk.
In order to verify their theory, the group used river data from the year 2000 to 2012 to predict an annual European flood loss of 4,9 billion euros. This was just 0,7 billion above the actual reported costs.
With this in mind, the researchers applied their model to the future. They estimated that the damage costs for European flooding would reach an annual 23,5 billion euros by 2050.
Climate change not the main culprit
With severe recent floods in the United Kingdom this winter, as well as in Central Europe during summer 2013, it is clear that extreme flooding is on the rise.
However, while some may be quick to pin the blame on climate change, Jongman argues that two-thirds of this spike in flooding will result from human influences, specifically the rapid level of socio-economic growth.
"More people are living in flood-prone areas, [and] the income per capita is increasing in the dangerous areas around Europe," Jongman states.
At the same time, organisations like the European Environment Agency and the United Nations warn that melting icecaps and changing rain patterns are just some of the environmental factors that will lead to more flooding in the future.
With both economic growth and climate change as pressing, long-term issues, Jongman suggests that governments be proactive and pool their resources when it comes to effective flood prevention.
If Europe were to invest 1,75 billion euros in this cause, the continent could see a reduction in the 2050 projected flood damage by up to one third.
Flood prevention costs may be substantial, and a tough political card to play, but the benefits could far outweigh the costs.