Carbon Capture: A Technology Assessment (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) is widely seen as a critical strategy for limiting atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2)—the principal “greenhouse gas” linked to global climate change—from power plants and other large industrial sources. This report focuses on the first component of a CCS system, the CO2 capture process. Unlike the other two components of CCS, transportation and geologic storage, the CO2 capture component of CCS is heavily technology-dependent. For CCS to succeed at reducing CO2 emissions from a significant fraction of large sources in the United States, CO2 capture technologies would need to be deployed widely. Widespread commercial deployment will likely depend, in part, on the cost of the technology deployed to capture CO2. This report assesses prospects for improved, lower-cost technologies for each of the three current approaches to CO2 capture: post-combustion capture; pre-combustion capture; and oxy-combustion capture.
What do leading companies and investors really think about climate change?
What do companies and investors think about climate change? Results from the Carbon Disclosure Project point to an increased focus on embedding sustainability into the business, measuring the results, and taking a holistic approach to business strategy and operations.
Among American Conservatives, but not Liberals, trust in science has been declining since the 1970′s. Climate science has become particularly polarized, with Conservatives being more likely than Liberals to reject the notion that greenhouse gas emissions are warming the globe. Conversely, opposition to genetically-modified (GM) foods and vaccinations is often ascribed to the political Left although reliable data are lacking. There are also growing indications that rejection of science is suffused by conspiracist ideation, that is the general tendency to endorse conspiracy theories including the specific beliefs that inconvenient scientific findings constitute a “hoax.”
We conducted a propensity weighted internet-panel survey of the U.S. population and show that conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to GM. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science.
Free-market worldviews are an important predictor of the rejection of scientific findings that have potential regulatory implications, such as climate science, but not necessarily of other scientific issues. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, is associated with the rejection of all scientific propositions tested. We highlight the manifold cognitive reasons why conspiracist ideation would stand in opposition to the scientific method. The involvement of conspiracist ideation in the rejection of science has implications for science communicators.
Statistical Basis for Predicting Technological Progress
Source: PLoS ONE
Forecasting technological progress is of great interest to engineers, policy makers, and private investors. Several models have been proposed for predicting technological improvement, but how well do these models perform? An early hypothesis made by Theodore Wright in 1936 is that cost decreases as a power law of cumulative production. An alternative hypothesis is Moore’s law, which can be generalized to say that technologies improve exponentially with time. Other alternatives were proposed by Goddard, Sinclair et al., and Nordhaus. These hypotheses have not previously been rigorously tested. Using a new database on the cost and production of 62 different technologies, which is the most expansive of its kind, we test the ability of six different postulated laws to predict future costs. Our approach involves hindcasting and developing a statistical model to rank the performance of the postulated laws. Wright’s law produces the best forecasts, but Moore’s law is not far behind. We discover a previously unobserved regularity that production tends to increase exponentially. A combination of an exponential decrease in cost and an exponential increase in production would make Moore’s law and Wright’s law indistinguishable, as originally pointed out by Sahal. We show for the first time that these regularities are observed in data to such a degree that the performance of these two laws is nearly the same. Our results show that technological progress is forecastable, with the square root of the logarithmic error growing linearly with the forecasting horizon at a typical rate of 2.5% per year. These results have implications for theories of technological change, and assessments of candidate technologies and policies for climate change mitigation.
After Sandy: A New ULI Report Looks at Mitigating Climate Change Through Land Use, Offers Recommendations on Strengthening Community Resiliency
The reality of climate change will forever change community building, with planning and development decisions increasingly based on strengthening community resilience through what is built, and where and how it is built, according to a new report released today by the Urban Land Institute (ULI).
Leading up to the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, ULI has prepared After Sandy: Advancing Strategies for Long-Term Resilience and Adaptability, which offers guidance on community building in a way that responds to inevitable climate change and sea level rise, and helps preserve the environment, boost economic prosperity, and foster a high quality of life.
ULI, a global research and education institute dedicated to responsible land use, has a long history of advising communities on repositioning after disasters. At the request of three ULI District Councils—ULI New York (city), ULI Northern New Jersey, and ULI Philadelphia, which serve ULI members in those market areas—ULI in July 2013 convened a panel of the nation’s foremost authorities on real estate and urban planning to evaluate local and federal plans for strengthening community resiliency post- Sandy, and offer guidance on rebuilding efforts. Candid insights and observations from these experts formed the basis for After Sandy, a comprehensive, practical set of 23 recommendations focused on four areas—land use and development; infrastructure, technology and capacity; finance, investment and insurance; and leadership and governance.
The report’s overriding message: The increased frequency of severe weather events, as well as rising sea levels, are compelling the real estate industry to address climate change by working with the public sector to implement adaptive measures that better protect both the built and natural environment.
Human influence on climate clear, IPCC report says (PDF)
Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident in most regions of the globe, a new assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes.
It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The evidence for this has grown, thanks to more and better observations, an improved understanding of the climate system response and improved climate models.
Warming in the climate system is unequivocal and since 1950 many changes have been observed throughout the climate system that are unprecedented over decades to millennia. Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth’s surface than any preceding decade since 1850, reports the Summary for Policymakers of the IPCC Working Group I assessment report, Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis, approved on Friday by member governments of the IPCC in Stockholm, Sweden.
Climate Change Legislation in the 113th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
In the 113th Congress, Members have introduced multiple bills that include provisions that would directly or indirectly address climate change-related issues. In some cases, it is difficult to distinguish between direct and indirect climate change bills, because a specific bill or action may seek to achieve multiple objectives. The bills listed in this report include provisions that directly address climate change, as opposed to those that primarily address other issues (e.g., energy efficiency) but could have ancillary impacts on climate.
Observations about the climate change-related proposals in the 113 th Congress include the following:
- as of the date of this report, one bill (S. 332) would attach a price to GHG emissions;
- a large number of the identified bills include provisions to encourage or require climate change adaptation activities; and
- a considerable number of proposals include provisions to prohibit federal agencies, particularly the Environmental Protection Agency, from taking action to require GHG emission reductions.
Federal Climate Change Funding from FY2008 to FY2014 (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Direct federal funding to address global climate change totaled approximately $77 billion from FY2008 through FY2013. The large majority—more than 75%—has funded technology development and deployment, primarily through the Department of Energy (DOE). More than one-third of the identified funding was included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5). The President’s request for FY2014 contains $11.6 billion for federal expenditures on programs. In the request, 23% would be for science, 68% for energy technology development and deployment, 8% for international assistance, and 1% for adapting to climate change. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) also reports that energy tax provisions that may reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions would reduce tax revenues by $9.8 billion.
At least 18 federal agencies administer climate change-related activities, according to OMB. Federal policy on climate change has been built largely from the “bottom up” from a variety of existing programs and mandates, presidential initiatives, and congressionally directed activities; funding has largely reflected departmental missions and support for each activity. Recently, the Obama Administration, in the context of its Climate Action Plan announced in June 2013, outlined an overall strategy with programs, resources, and tax incentives in a cross-agency, inter- governmental initiative. The new Climate Acti on Plan and a recent OMB report required by Congress on federal funding for climate change activities outline four main components of the strategy:
- Climate and Global Change Research and Education
- Reducing Emissions through Clean Energy Investments and Standards
- International Leadership
- Climate Change Adaptation
Possible Funding-Related Issues for Congress
Some Members of Congress have expressed interest in how federal funding may reflect and enable the Obama Administration’s overall strategy, and priorities within it, to address climate change. Legislative issues regarding the federal funding of climate change activities may include the following:
- the sufficiency and alignment of federal resources to support a strategy to achieve long-term climate change policy goals;
- the demands of climate change adaptation programming for federal agencies, their programs, and resources;
- whether additional and predictable foreign aid resources may be provided to support actions by low-income countries to mitigate greenhouse gases or adapt to climate change;
- possible legislative proposals to restructure or improve collaboration among agencies regarding climate change activities;
- the incorporation of recommendations from evaluations (whether internal or external) to improve climate change programs; and
- possible requirements for reporting to Congress of funding, budget justifications, and programmatic progress that are adequate to support congressional decision- making and oversight.
Scope and Purpose of This Report
This report summarizes direct federal funding identified as climate change-related from FY2008 enacted funding through FY2013 and the FY2014 request (as well as a less consistent series beginning with FY2001). It reports the Administration’s estimates of tax revenues not received due to energy tax provisions that may reduce GHG emissions. The report briefly identifies the programs and funding levels, as well as some qualifications and observations on reporting of federal funding. It further offers some issues that Members may wish to consider in deliberating on U.S. climate change strategies.
An Evolutionary Model of Industry Transformation and the Political Sustainability of Emission Control Policies
Limiting the extent and effects of climate change requires the transformation of industrial, commercial, energy, and transportation systems. To achieve its goals, a near-term policy has to sustain itself for many decades. Market-based policies should prove useful in promoting such transformations. But which policies might do so most effectively? How can such policies be designed so that they endure politically over the long-term? While standard economic theory provides an excellent understanding of the efficiency-enhancing potential of markets, it sheds less insight on their transformational implications. In particular, the introduction of markets often also leads to significant changes in society’s values, technology, and institutions, and these types of market-induced transformations are generally not well understood. This report presents a simulation framework with both game theoretic and agent-based components designed to model evolutionary changes in the firms belonging to an industry sector and how these may form changing coalitions that influence how government sets a price for carbon emissions. The model captures the complex interactions between market-formation, technological innovation, government regulatory policy and the emergent climate change. It tests a set of outcome measures under different carbon emission control policies. The model is a tool to support the design of a government’s regulatory policy by using robust decision making to examine how measures intended to reduce emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gasses may give rise to market-induced transformations that in turn may ease or hinder the government’s ability to maintain its policy.
New From the GAO
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Polar Weather Satellites: NOAA Identified Ways to Mitigate Data Gaps, but Contingency Plans and Schedules Require Further Attention. GAO-13-676, September 11.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657778.pdf
2. Geostationary Weather Satellites: Progress Made, but Weaknesses in Scheduling, Contingency Planning, and Communicating with Users Need to Be Addressed. GAO-13-597, September 9.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657517.pdf
3. Climate Change: State Should Further Improve Its Reporting on Financial Support to Developing Countries to Meet Future Requirements and Guidelines. GAO-13-829, September 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657986.pdf
1. Environmental Satellites: Focused Attention Needed to Improve Mitigation Strategies for Satellite Coverage Gaps, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittees on Environment and Oversight, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. GAO-13-865T, September 19.
2. Homeland Security: Observations on DHS’s Oversight of Major Acquisitions and Efforts to Match Resources to Needs, by Michele Mackin, director, acquisition and sourcing management, before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-13-846T, September 19.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/657970.pdf
1. GAO Announces Chair and Vice Chair of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Board of Governors, September 19.
Mapping climate change in European temperature distributions
Source: Environmental Research Letters
Climate change poses challenges for decision makers across society, not just in preparing for the climate of the future but even when planning for the climate of the present day. When making climate sensitive decisions, policy makers and adaptation planners would benefit from information on local scales and for user-specific quantiles (e.g. the hottest/coldest 5% of days) and thresholds (e.g. days above 28 ° C), not just mean changes. Here, we translate observations of weather into observations of climate change, providing maps of the changing shape of climatic temperature distributions across Europe since 1950. The provision of such information from observations is valuable to support decisions designed to be robust in today’s climate, while also providing data against which climate forecasting methods can be judged and interpreted. The general statement that the hottest summer days are warming faster than the coolest is made decision relevant by exposing how the regions of greatest warming are quantile and threshold dependent. In a band from Northern France to Denmark, where the response is greatest, the hottest days in the temperature distribution have seen changes of at least 2 ° C, over four times the global mean change over the same period. In winter the coldest nights are warming fastest, particularly in Scandinavia.
Environmental Change and Migration: What We Know (PDF)
Source: Migration Policy Institute
Environmental change is likely to affect global migration flows in a number of ways, including by making areas uninhabitable in the short and long term, reducing livelihoods, and increasing the likelihood of conflict as competition for scarce resources rises. For individuals already in a vulnerable situation due to economic or other reasons, migration may be the only viable adaptation strategy to a changing environment. This brief examines environmental change-induced displacement and offers recommendations for policymakers in countries that may experience the brunt of such change as well as those that expect to receive climate migrants from other countries in the future.
Black carbon in the Arctic: the underestimated role of gas flaring and residential combustion emissions
Black carbon in the Arctic: the underestimated role of gas flaring and residential combustion emissions
Source: Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Arctic haze is a seasonal phenomenon with high concentrations of accumulation-mode aerosols occurring in the Arctic in winter and early spring. Chemistry transport models and climate chemistry models struggle to reproduce this phenomenon, and this has recently prompted changes in aerosol removal schemes to remedy the modeling problems. In this paper, we show that shortcomings in current emission data sets are at least as important. We perform a 3 yr model simulation of black carbon (BC) with the Lagrangian particle dispersion model FLEXPART. The model is driven with a new emission data set (“ECLIPSE emissions”) which includes emissions from gas flaring. While gas flaring is estimated to contribute less than 3% of global BC emissions in this data set, flaring dominates the estimated BC emissions in the Arctic (north of 66° N). Putting these emissions into our model, we find that flaring contributes 42% to the annual mean BC surface concentrations in the Arctic. In March, flaring even accounts for 52% of all Arctic BC near the surface. Most of the flaring BC remains close to the surface in the Arctic, so that the flaring contribution to BC in the middle and upper troposphere is small. Another important factor determining simulated BC concentrations is the seasonal variation of BC emissions from residential combustion (often also called domestic combustion, which is used synonymously in this paper). We have calculated daily residential combustion emissions using the heating degree day (HDD) concept based on ambient air temperature and compare results from model simulations using emissions with daily, monthly and annual time resolution. In January, the Arctic-mean surface concentrations of BC due to residential combustion emissions are 150% higher when using daily emissions than when using annually constant emissions. While there are concentration reductions in summer, they are smaller than the winter increases, leading to a systematic increase of annual mean Arctic BC surface concentrations due to residential combustion by 68% when using daily emissions. A large part (93%) of this systematic increase can be captured also when using monthly emissions; the increase is compensated by a decreased BC burden at lower latitudes. In a comparison with BC measurements at six Arctic stations, we find that using daily-varying residential combustion emissions and introducing gas flaring emissions leads to large improvements of the simulated Arctic BC, both in terms of mean concentration levels and simulated seasonality. Case studies based on BC and carbon monoxide (CO) measurements from the Zeppelin observatory appear to confirm flaring as an important BC source that can produce pollution plumes in the Arctic with a high BC / CO enhancement ratio, as expected for this source type. BC measurements taken during a research ship cruise in the White, Barents and Kara seas north of the region with strong flaring emissions reveal very high concentrations of the order of 200–400 ng m−3. The model underestimates these concentrations substantially, which indicates that the flaring emissions (and probably also other emissions in northern Siberia) are rather under- than overestimated in our emission data set. Our results suggest that it may not be “vertical transport that is too strong or scavenging rates that are too low” and “opposite biases in these processes” in the Arctic and elsewhere in current aerosol models, as suggested in a recent review article (Bond et al., Bounding the role of black carbon in the climate system: a scientific assessment, J. Geophys. Res., 2013), but missing emission sources and lacking time resolution of the emission data that are causing opposite model biases in simulated BC concentrations in the Arctic and in the mid-latitudes.
See: Oil Industry and Household Stoves Speed Arctic Thaw (Science Daily)
Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
This report surveys existing law for legal issues that have arisen, or may arise in the future, on account of climate change and government responses thereto.
At the threshold of many climate-change-related lawsuits are two barriers—whether the plaintiff has standing to sue and whether the claim being made presents a political question. Both barriers have forced courts to apply amorphous standards in a new and complex context.
Efforts to mitigate climate change—that is, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—have spawned a host of legal issues. The Supreme Court resolved a big one in 2007: the Clean Air Act (CAA), it said, authorizes EPA to regulate GHG emissions. EPA’s subsequent efforts to carry out that authority have been sustained by the D.C. Circuit. Another issue is whether EPA’s “endangerment finding” for GHG emissions from new motor vehicles will compel EPA to move against GHG emissions from other sources, and, if EPA does, whether the CAA authorizes capand-trade programs. Still other mitigation issues are (1) the role of the Endangered Species Act in addressing climate change; (2) how climate change must be considered under the National Environmental Policy Act; (3) liability and other questions raised by carbon capture and sequestration; (4) constitutional constraints on land use regulation and state actions to control GHG emissions; and (5) whether the public trust doctrine applies to the atmosphere.
Liability for harms allegedly caused by climate change has raised another crop of legal issues. The Supreme Court decision that the CAA bars federal judges from imposing their own limits on GHG emissions from power plants has led observers to ask: Can plaintiffs alleging climate change harms still seek monetary damages, and are state law claims still allowed? The two rulings so far say no to the former, but split on the latter. Questions of insurance policy coverage are also likely to be litigated. Finally, the applicability of international law principles to climate change has yet to be resolved.
Water shortages thought to be induced by climate change likely will lead to litigation over the nature of water rights. Shortages have already prompted several lawsuits over whether cutbacks in water delivered from federal projects effect Fifth Amendment takings or breaches of contract.
Sea level rise and extreme precipitation linked to climate change raise questions as to (1) the effect of sea level rise on the beachfront owner’s property line; (2) whether public beach access easements migrate with the landward movement of beaches; (3) design and operation of federal levees; and (4) government failure to take preventive measures against climate change harms.
Other adaptation responses to climate change raising legal issues, often property rights related, are beach armoring (seawalls, bulkheads, etc.), beach renourishment, and “retreat” measures. Retreat measures seek to move existing development away from areas likely to be affected by floods and sea level rise, and to discourage new development there.
Natural disasters to which climate change contributes may prompt questions as to whether response actions taken in an emergency are subject to relaxed requirements and, similarly, as to the rebuilding of structures destroyed by such disasters just as they were before. Finally, immigration and refugee law appear not to cover persons forced to relocate because of climate change impacts such as drought or sea level rise.
Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force Releases Rebuilding Strategy
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, today released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild. The Rebuilding Strategy contains 69 policy recommendations, many of which have already been adopted, that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms.
Among the recommendations that will have the greatest impact on Federal funding is a process to prioritize all large-scale infrastructure projects and map the connections and interdependencies between them, as well as guidelines to ensure all of those projects are built to withstand the impacts of climate change. The Strategy also explores how to harden energy infrastructure to minimize power outages and fuel shortages – and ensure continuation of cellular service – in the event of future storms.
The goal of these and other recommendations in the Strategy is to:
•Align federal funding with local rebuilding visions.
•Cut red tape and get assistance to families, businesses, and communities efficiently and effectively, with maximum accountability.
•Coordinate the efforts of the Federal, State, and local governments, with a region-wide approach to rebuilding.
•Ensure the region is rebuilt in a way that makes it more resilient – that is, better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by a changing climate.
Addressing Coastal Vulnerabilities Through Comprehensive Planning
Source: RAND Corporation
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. coastal counties have grown by more than 45 percent between 1970 and 2010, amounting to 50 million new coastal residents and billions of dollars in additional assets (homes and businesses) in these areas. Coastal residents are vulnerable to many potential risks, including damage to human life and property that result from storm flooding. And the increasing concentration of people, property, and other activities in coastal areas can itself contribute to the problem by removing or diminishing wetlands, barrier islands, and other features that serve as natural buffers to storm surges.
The Gulf Coast has borne a substantial portion of the damage from coastal storms in recent decades. For example, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Gustav and Ike in 2008 collectively caused approximately $150 billion in damage to Louisiana, Mississippi, and other Gulf Coast states. But these coastal risks are also prevalent in other areas, as shown by the massive damage and disruption that “Superstorm” Sandy caused to the people, homes, businesses, and infrastructure of coastal communities along the Eastern Seaboard.
Coastal risks may increase as the climate warms. Sea levels are anywhere from 6 to 12 inches higher now than a century ago and continue to rise at a rate of more than an inch per decade. Current projections suggest that the rate of sea-level rise will continue to increase because of warming oceans and melting glaciers, leading to sea levels from 8 inches to as much as 4–6 feet higher than 1990 levels by 2100. Such increases, when combined with coastal tides and storm surge, will likely dramatically increase the risk of floods to coastal residents and property. And warming sea surface temperatures and changing climate patterns could also either intensify future tropical storms and hurricanes or make large and powerful hurricanes more common.
Reducing the vulnerability of coastal communities to these threats is challenging, given both the scale of the problem across broad geographic regions and uncertainty about the specific nature of the risk. Several restoration efforts in the United States have begun to take more-comprehensive planning approaches to addressing such challenges. Those in the Florida Everglades, Chesapeake Bay, and San Francisco Bay Delta regions are notable recent examples. But such efforts have not yet led to a broadly applicable methodology for identifying and reducing coastal vulnerabilities to climate change.
Climatic change and assisted migration: Strategic options for forest and conservation nurseries
Source: U.S. Forest Service
In light of current studies (for example, Gray and Hamann 2012; Zhu and others 2012) that show climate will change faster than plants can adapt or migrate naturally, it begs the question, “What does this mean for forestry, specifically forest and conservation nurseries?” Growing trees that just survive may become more important than promoting fast growth rates for superior genetics (Hebda 2008). In a recent survey of state and commercial nurseries in the US, most state nurseries have not explored how changes in climate will impact their abilities to select, produce, and provide trees that are suitable to projected climatic conditions (Tepe and Meretsky 2011).
Organizational and institutional issues in climate change adaptation and risk management
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute
This report provides some reflections and insights on the level of awareness, practices, and organizational and institutional issues being faced by countries as they adapt to climate change, based on interviews with 87 practitioners working in government agencies, local organizations, international organizations, and think thanks reporting involvement in climate change adaptation. Data were collected in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Mali using both an e-survey platform and face-to-face interviews.
Responses reveal active work within these organizations on climate change adaptation and emphasize their important role in the countries’ efforts to address and adapt to climate change. Responses also reveal strong awareness among these organizations of different aspects of climate change adaptation along the different stages in a climate change adaptation project cycle, which may be a reflection of the active discussions and awareness campaigns during NAPA development in these countries. However, despite the awareness and presence of national strategies and action plans, there seem to be no explicit and clearly defined policy and strategy within these organizations outlining their role in and contribution to the national and collective efforts and, more importantly, no explicit and measurable targets and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system to track progress and outcomes over time. Reported capacity gaps can be grouped into two categories: training needs and institutional challenges.
Climate change, rapid urbanization, and subsiding land are putting the world’s coastal cities at increasing risk of dangerous and costly flooding, a new study calculating future urban losses from flooding shows.
The study, led by World Bank economist Stephane Hallegatte and the OECD, forecasts that average global flood losses will multiply from $6 billion per city in 2005 to $52 billion a year by 2050 with just social-economic factors, such as increasing population and property value, taken into account. Add in the risks from sea-level rise and sinking land, and global flood damage could cost $1 trillion a year if cities don’t take steps to adapt.
Most coastal cities’ current defenses against storm surges and flooding are designed to withstand only current conditions. They aren’t prepared for the rising sea levels accompanying climate change that will make future floods more devastating, the authors write. Protecting these cities in the future will take substantial investment in structural defenses, as well as better planning, they write.
The findings add to a series of recent studies, led by the World Bank’s Turn Down the Heat reports, that have looked closely at expected rises in sea level and their impact on vulnerable regions around the world.