More than a billion people are set to be exposed to coastal flooding by 2060 through a combination of sea level rise, storm surges and extreme weather, says a new report.
Published today, the report Act Now Or Pay Later: Protecting a billion people in climate-threatened coastal cities reveals that it is people living in three of the biggest carbon polluting countries that will be most at risk: the US, China and India.
According to projections for the year 2070, supported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, India’s Kolkata and Mumbai top the list of cities whose populations are most exposed to coastal flooding, with 14 million and 11.4 million respectively. The first seven cities on the list are from Asia, followed by Miami at number eight.
Miami is also forecast to suffer the brunt of the financial losses from coastal flooding by 2070, topping a separate list with an eye-watering $3.5 trillion of exposed assets. The US is likely to pay a hefty price for its world-leading per capita carbon emissions, as New York also comes in third with $2.1 trillion. China’s Guangzhou splits the two American cities with exposed assets of $3.4 trillion.
In total, of the top 20 most financially vulnerable cities, half are from either of these two countries: four from the US, six from China.
Report author Dr Alison Doig, Christian Aid’s Principal Climate Change Advisor, said the figures should be a wakeup call ahead of next week’s World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul (May 23-24).
“We are facing a head on collision between the growth of coastal urban areas and climate change which makes coastal flooding more likely,” she said. “This perfect storm is likely to bring about a heavy human and financial toll unless we do something about it.
“Cruelly, it will be the poor that will suffer the most. Although the financial cost to cities in rich countries will be crippling, wealthier people will at least have options to relocate and receive insurance protection.
“Evidence shows that from New Orleans to Dhaka, it is the poorest who are most vulnerable because they have the worst infrastructure and no social or financial safety nets to help them recover.”
Dr Doig added: “There is a chance this horrifying vision of the future can be avoided. It is striking that the cities facing the most severe impacts are in countries with high contributions of carbon emissions. The first thing we can do is speed up the global transition away from dirty fossil fuels to the clean, renewably energy of the future.
“We can also do more to prepare for such occurrences. For every $1 spent on reducing the risk of disasters we save around $7 later. Such investment is a no brainer.”
Ahead of next week’s World Humanitarian Summit, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon has called for the percentage of global aid spent on disaster risk reduction to be doubled to 1%. This would bring the figure to $1 billion. Christian Aid is calling for a rise to 5%.
Dr Doig said: “This billion dollars would go some way to help protect people in these cities now, and alleviate the threat for the billion vulnerable people at risk from coastal flooding by 2060.”
In another ranking the report lists which nations will have the most people living in exposed coastlines by 2060. China tops the list, followed by India and Bangladesh. The UK comes in 22nd.
Dr Doig said: “In the UK we’ve experienced in recent years the winter flooding that has left large parts of the country deluged. But these figures show that it’s not just more rainfall we need to be wary of. The people living along our coastlines will become vulnerable to rising tides unless we do something about climate change.”
The report goes on to examine how men and women are affected differently by climate related disasters, with women on the whole suffering more acutely. It also shows examples of where Christian Aid is providing practical assistance to help the most vulnerable deal with the climate impacts they are already facing.
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and ranked 142nd out of 187 nations on the UN’s Human Development Index. Feroza Begum and her family are on the front line of climate change; their home was flooded multiple times and at one point was under water for 18 days. Thanks to help from Christian Aid partner organization GUK their home and surrounding land was raised onto a sturdy plinth.
Feroza was also given livestock and climate resistant seeds so that she can diversify her income and become more resilient. She said: “Because of this plinth, I feel better. Now I have been able to make a small plantation and grow some vegetables. I am doing much better and feel much safer.”