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Is the UK Prepared? Flood Damages will Increase by 23% due to Climate Change

According to a new study, flood damages in the UK are predicted to rise by 23% if the COP26 commitments are not met.

Flooding in a western city like the London or Manchester
by Sveta K | @pexels

The future does not look good. According to the study published on 7th March 2023, by Fathom and Bristol University, the UK faces the looming danger of increasing flood damages because of the global warming.

Global warming has already caused a 12% increase in the mean annual flood magnitudes in various UK regions. In 2022, The British Insurers Association paid out 714 million in flood damage reimbursements. But this figure is now predicted to rise by 12 - 23% if the COP26 de-carbonization commitments are not kept. Whilst this is the only peer-reviewed research on this matter, various government reports have already been foreboding to its citizens about the increased probabilities and impacts of the flood risks.

What does the Fathom and Bristol University research say?

  • By 2030, if all of the net-zero emission pledges are met in full by all the current COP26 countries, the expected annual damage due to floods (EAD) is expected to rise by only 4% to £5.3m.

  • If the net zero emission targets are missed, a 2.5 degree celsius global warming will cause 13% increase in the EAD, which is about £6bn! Likewise, a 3.3 degree celsius global warming will cause 23% increase in the EAD, which is about £6.7bn!

  • Regardless of the global commitments, the following cities will be subject to increased flood damage risks: Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Liverpool, and Manchester. The EAD is expected to rise by 25% in these areas.

Water level ruler (WLR) present in the river Ouse in York for flood monitoring.
Water level ruler (WLR) in York's river Ouse.

Case study: York

About 10,000 non-residential properties are at a risk of flooding damages in the Yorkshire & Humber region. York is not unknown to river flooding which usually occurs to the river Ouse in the winter months. Just a few months ago, on 15th Jan 2023, York flood defences were deployed as the River Ouse levels rose 4.14m above its normal levels. This had resulted in seven flood alerts in the city of York and overall thirteen flood alerts in the Yorkshire region.

York City Council's frontline teams were proactive, assisting people in immediate danger, and various flood defenses, such as water pumps and sandbags, worked successfully. However, one cannot stop nature from doing its work. Public infrastructure and commercial properties were still damaged. Insurances were still claimed. Repairs were still done. Businesses remained closed. The long-term fiscal losses due to floods, like dips in property prices in that area, are still incurred. With the predicted increase in the frequency and magnitude of flooding, it is only a matter of time before the insurance rates also start increasing. While this article does not seek to criticize anybody, it seeks to ask the public, "How long will it be before these floods become less temperable?" and "How long will it be before global warming gets to us?" And based on the latest study published by Fathom and Bristol University, it seems to be sooner than expected.

It has become more important than before to not only adopt countermeasures but also to take preventative measures against global warming.

To answer the question: Is the UK prepared? The answer is no. No one is prepared until we tackle the looming issue of global warming.

Everyone can see climate change accelerating. The UK urgently needs to stay ahead of worsening impacts by adapting. The Environment Agency is doing just that by setting out their flood strategy but we won’t be able to keep up with the pace of change if we don’t reduce emissions to zero. The Committee on Climate Change’s net zero report shows how to do that. - Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change.

How to prepare?

But let us not forget that individual efforts worth pennies can make changes that billions of pounds can’t do. as particularly pledged to invest a total of £7.8 billion into flood and coastal erosion risk management.

But let us not forget that individual efforts worth pennies can make changes that billions of pounds can’t do.

Let us take small steps towards being carbon neutral and save our water bodies from flooding:

It is now or never.


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