Future flood risks
Published by the Visayan Daily Star
Editor-in-Chief & President
Bureau Chief, Dumaguete
MAJA P. DELY
|CARLOS ANTONIO L. LEONARDIA
A study in the journal Science Advances that calculated how much more flood protection will be needed to keep the risks of high-end floods constant in the next 25 years expects global warming to unleash more rain and expose millions more people to river flooding, particularly in the United States and parts of Asia, Africa and central Europe.
The report, based on models that researchers claim are 10 times more precise than commonly used climate computer simulations, said that unless actions are taken - such as enhancing dikes, boosting building standards, relocating settlements and managing rivers – the number of people affected by devastating floods could skyrocket.
Asia, the continent with the largest historical high-end flood risk, would get hit the hardest as the number of people affected by river flooding is projected to go from 70 to 156 million by 2040. Researchers say more than half of the US, must double their protection level within the next two decades if they want to avoid a dramatic increase in river flood risks.
The increase in river flood risks over the next few decades is being driven by the amount of greenhouse gases already emitted into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels. When more heat-trapping pollutants surround the Earth, more moisture is held in the air, leading to more rainfall. Governments are called upon to put more effort and determination into cutting these emissions as it is crucial to reducing food risks for future generations.
Our communities that are already well aware of river flood risks based on previous experience will need to heed the warnings and make better preparations in order to reduce the risks in the next few decades. Flood protection and drainage systems that are currently being improved may have to be reevaluated to see if the designs have been adequately future-proofed. Construction standards and maintenance protocols for such infrastructure will also need to be enhanced if our towns and cities are going to face these episodes with confidence. Do our leaders possess the political will to relocate communities found along rivers and low lying areas identified as hazardous in geohazard maps?
Scientists and researchers are raising the warning flags. Do we wait before they are proven right before acting?*