Rising Tides: Cities Of The World That May Be Flooded By Climate Change

As climate change intensifies, coastal flooding, such as the pictured event in Brisbane, Australia from 2011, threatens to displace hundreds of millions of people.
As climate change intensifies, coastal flooding, such as the pictured event in Brisbane, Australia from 2011, threatens to displace hundreds of millions of people.

Is Climate Change-Related Flooding a Real Threat?

Climate Change is a real threat to many cities today, according to the National Ocean Service, the United States of America's ocean and coastal agency. This prediction is in agreement with those of many other international organizations, who concur that, as the the world's oceans warm up, sea levels around the world will rise. Unusually warm weather patterns will expand seawater volumes, caused by glaciers, ice sheets, and icebergs in the Arctic and Antarctic melting. As a result, solid ice will turn to liquid water, and these huge increments in volume of freshwater will flow into seas and oceans, adding to their water volumes. This will in turn raise ocean water levels, and will almost certain flood coastal cities and low-lying areas around the world.

Coming Down The Pipeline

This terrible consequence has been predicted by many climate change agencies since decades ago, but this information has long been largely met with apathetic responses. Many of those cities that are in most danger are situated in coastal areas of countries all around the world. Following are some of the notably threatened cities, as cited by the World Bank in interpretations of the results of a study on cities that are at risk from flooding. The 10 cities are equally divided between North America and Asia. The first, North American five are all in the United states, namely Miami, New York, New Orleans, Tampa, and Boston. The next five, all in Asia, are Guangzhou (China, Mumbai (India, Nagoya (Japan, Shenzhen (China), and Osaka (Japan).

Monetary Losses

Financial damages as a consequence of flooding was also part of the study done by the World Bank on “Quantification of Present and Future Flood Losses.” The findings showed that 136 of the largest coastal cities in the world could suffer flood damages totaling about $1 trillion a year given corrective steps are not taken to prevent such a catastrophe. The study further showed that the average global flood losses in just social-economic factors alone will rise to $52 billion a year by 2050. However, the trend in the most vulnerable cities to be flooded in the future will include cities in the developing world's countries as well.

The following cities are the most vulnerable, according to their respective GDP losses. These are Guangzhou (China), New Orleans (USA), Guayaquil (Ecuador, Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam, Abidjan (Cote d”Ivoire), Zhanjing (China), Mumbai (India), Khulna (Bangladesh, Palembang (Indonesia, and Shenzhen (China). The next cities cited among those at greatest risk, though were not in the list previously, are Alexandria (Egypt, Barranquilla (Colombia, Naples (Italy, Sapporo (Japan), and Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic.

In the event that such flooding does occur, the GDP losses could reach 50% or more of GDP, relative to pre-flooding baselines. The building and installation of city flood defenses are not a guarantee of safety, however, as the possibility of such defenses' failure and/or provision of inadequate protection still exists. The result would be populaces in danger, and situations putting their property at a high risk of major losses. Furthermore, once disaster has struck, the authorities can only do so much to reserve the damage. It is therefore all the more crucial for the proper government agencies to install warning systems in such places, and the checking of infrastructural and financial supports should include evacuation planning before disaster strikes. The World Bank research team recommends updating adaptations for existing flood measures as well.

Mitigating The Effects Of Coastal Flooding

The US Department of Defense had started its “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” in October of 2014. Therein, it was recommended that cities should make their facilities ready for handling a prospective sea level rise of 1.5 feet by as early as 2034. There are other threats and consequences that add up to the rising cost of protecting the world's cities as well. A recent problem seen already has been saltwater pushing up through residential and office drains in many localities around the world. The risk is also quantified by the population growth of the cities at risk of water inundation due to global warming. More people, more businesses, and more homes means also means more of each of those things are at risk.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recommended that individuals, businesses, and state and local governments alike should be able to limit and reverse the increasing level of greenhouse emissions by taking action. Online resources are available that outline ways to combat global warming as well. Such websites include the FloodTools and the National Flood Insurance Program's FloodSmart websites. Another website that helps people to learn more about flood risks and take preemptive measures are the Georgetown Climate Center's State and Local Adaptation Plans. When implemented in due process, these suggested adaptations have been shown to be very effective, according to a 2014 study of the “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” This was just one more piece of evidence that the effects and causes of global climate change can be mitigated, at least in part, by organized urban strategies.

Regional Trends In Socioeconomic Consequences

The economic and cultural impacts that global warming and climate change bring should not be underestimated. In the past, changes in climate patterns have affected water supplies, energy, food security, healthcare systems, transportation, and all manner of infrastructure. Coastal cities and low-lying areas are specially prone to climate change, and then there are those other, inland cities that are naturally and geographically susceptible to droughts, storms, cyclones, and sea level rise aw well. These factors are doubly affected by these metropolises' populaces' links to their works and professions. Economics factors such as poverty will be affected more readily by minor climate and weather changes than those affluent enough to overcome such setbacks with more access to money.

Cities that have more senior citizen residents are the most at risk in adapting to climate change, though the younger generation will also be at grave risk when disasters happen in connection with climate change. Densely populated areas that receive more heat in the summer as climate changes occur will have more residents suffering from heat strokes and dehydration. Power and water supplies will obviously be affected by more demand for air conditioning and water usage in summertime as well. Many Native Americans in the U.S. have no choice but to remain in their designated, largely unprotected, reservation lands due to socioeconomic factors, and their plight may be worsened due to climate change. Even under current Southwest U.S. weather conditions, such populations are already experiencing water quality and water availability problems. Further north, Native Alaskans are experiencing the scarcity of their traditional and cultural ties to their food sources as well, as many of these are dependent upon frozen environs that are now melting into the seas.

Is It Too Late To Turn Back The Tide?

Scientists have surmised that whatever measures the US government takes, hundreds of US cities will soon be submerged under sea water regardless. Another study by Climate Central showed that historic carbon emissions in the past have ensured future sea level rise will inundate hundreds of cities in the United States in the future. Florida, in the U.S., has been identified as one of the areas that eventually will be underwater in the future. Its porous limestone land has been compared to a sponge that sucks up water, made all the worse as carbon emissions continue to affect the atmosphere. Inundated cities in the future may become useless dumps or, quite literally, underwater diving attractions where people can venture into lost worlds.

Relocating To New Homes

The populations affected will have to be relocated by their governments into other areas that can still welcome additional people, or otherwise reclaim land and create new cities on top of the submerged ones. People who would not feel safe in the same country may have a choice of immigrating to higher altitude countries, such as Switzerland and Austria for coastal-dwelling Europeans. Another good choice in the U.S.A. is Colorado, which, with its "mile-high" altitude, could be a sensible place to avoid future inundations. There are obviously many more alternatives to living in flood-prone areas, but prevention ultimately may be the solution. Countries like Switzerland, whose government has taken global warming seriously, should be emulated. It was the first country to submit a contribution to the international climate agreement in the form of a pledge to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions by 50% by the year 2030. Indeed, even mountainous Switzerland is also affected by climate change, as warmer weather will produce a higher incidence of rock slides and flooding, as well as snow avalanches.

Could Natural Processes Be Partly To Blame?

Massachusetts Institute of Technology scientists recently conducted a study on global warming trends, and found out that the earth's natural cycles could be the major cause of the phenomenon. The scientists made the discovery that the worldwide methane gas level increase on the planet occurred at the same time. This data speculates that the rise of greenhouse gases is in part due to the earth's natural cycles that occur every several hundred thousand years. According to TEPCO Professors of Atmospheric Chemistry Matthew Rigby and Ronald Prinn at MIT's Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science, an imbalance was created by this phenomenon, adding several million metric tons of methane to the earth's atmosphere in the process. Although methane gas is neutralized by hydroxyl (OH) in the earth's atmosphere, there is still a need to undertake more research work to determine whether the relative connection of increased methane gas and the rate of increases of its removal by the free radical hydroxyl could have major roles in causing, and possibly reversing, climate change and related coastal flooding.


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