Urban resilience vital as coastal cities face US$1 trillion floods by 2050

Clare Saxon Ghauri
20 August 2013

LONDON: Flood damage in the world’s biggest coastal cities is estimated to cost US$1 trillion a year by 2050 according to fresh analysis by the World Bank, restating the need for greater investment in urban resilience.

In 2005, average global flood losses reached US$6 billion a year, a figure which is calculated to grow US$50 billion a year to pass US$1 trillion by 2050 unless coastal cities invest in flood defences.

Published in nature climate change, in ‘Future flood losses in major coastal cities’, the World Bank authors explain how rising sea levels and climate change is causing extreme weather and flooding, with more than 40% of an expected US$1 trillion in flood damages falling on four main cities: New Orleans, New York and Miami in the US, and Guangzhou in China. These cities are at high risk because wealth is high, yet protection systems are poor.


The authors conclude that with systematic preparedness and adaptation coupled with comprehensive insurance programs, yearly flood losses in the world’s biggest coastal cities could be cut to US$63 billion.

To calculate these costs, authors matched average yearly losses against 136 of the world’s largest coastal cities’ gross domestic products, to show how much should be reserved for such losses. This means that some cities have a lower financial loss due to high risk of flooding but high levels of preparation, such as Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which has some of the best sea defence standards in the world.

The authors point out that rapidly growing populations also contribute to these rocketing flood damage costs, as there is more investment and life at risk in larger economies.


On the topic of urban resilience, The Climate Group is hosting a live Twitter Q&A tomorrow at 3pm CET (2pm BST) with climate risk experts, David Bresch, Head Sustainability and Political Risk Management, and Andreas Spiegel, Senior Climate Change Adviser, from global re-insurer Swiss Re.

David Bresch, Head Sustainability and Political Risk Management, Swiss Re, said: “Key to climate resilience is how well urban societies are able to cope with the financial consequences of a disaster, which includes access to the requisitefunding for relief, recovery and reconstructionSwiss Re can offer risk transfer solutions that help bridge the gap between economic and insured losses and reduce the financial burden on local communities.

“We partner with businesses, governments and civil society to strengthen the resilience of local communities and protect them against the risks in a changing climate.”

Join @ClimateGroup for the live Twitter Q&A at 3pm CET (2pm BST) on Tuesday August 20, using #CWNYC to follow the conversation or ask your questions. 

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By Clare Saxon

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