Author: Donna Conneely
A new report from the Met Office Hadley Centre for Climate Change (HCCC) indicates that global warming will significantly alter weather patterns in countries around the world. The report predicts a pronounced increase of floods affecting riparian and coastal communities, extreme weather events, and a significant increase in global temperatures. This temperature increase will be particularly evident in urban environments, affecting millions of people in these densely populated zones.
In the scenario described by the HCCC report, vast areas of coastal land will become uninhabitable by rising sea levels and incessant flooding. This is already happening in parts of Indonesia, Pakistan and the Philippines. As a result, displaced people are moving into already overloaded urban areas, severely taxing infrastructure and resources.
But many cities will not be able to provide a safe haven, Throughout history, cities have been built close to waterways, as a means of transportation of goods and commerce. This worked very well in the past, but now proximity to waterways and oceans has become hazardous. As global warming brings more rain and as sea levels rise, many densely populated areas are a high risk for flooding.
Some areas, such as the Netherlands and low-lying areas of England, are well-prepared. Thousands of years of repeated flooding has led to the construction of reliable flood control defenses. With more than 40% of its land below sea level, the Netherlands is particularly motivated to invest in flood protection.
Other areas are not so well-prepared. Many developing countries do not have the resources to build flood defense infrastructure, and these areas are regularly devastated by floods. However, it is not just Indonesia and Southeast Asia that is woefully unprepared for the coming deluges. Major US cities are also at risk, including New York, Miami, New Orleans, Houston — and these cities have not invested in flood protection to the extent necessary to defend lives and property.
If the HCCC report is correct, flood-prone cities around the world can expect a continuous round of flooding, extreme weather events, population flight, and much warmer temperatures. The data suggests that these changes are inevitable and imminent. Flood protection measures enacted in a timely manner can help save these cities. Although no flood barrier is 100% effective, the very existence of modern-day Netherlands is a testament to the effectiveness of well-constructed flood barriers. In order to weather the coming storms, many major US cities must prepare for recurrent flooding by installing effective flood barriers and other flood control measures.