Policy Update

As Sea Levels Rise, Damage Costs Rise Even Faster



NCEL Point of Contact

Clara Summers
Climate and Energy Manager


Coastal cities suffering from rising seas will also suffer disproportionately higher damage costs, new research has found. Increasing water levels are well documented, but little research has investigated future economic impact from increased flooding and storm surges. Scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research addressed this question by developing a model that combines the probability of flood events occurring with the probability of inundation damage to estimate the total cost of damage. Sea level rise will exacerbate both of these variables, but the model also incorporates flood defense measures like sea walls and dikes.

The scientists hope their findings will inform different levels of governments as they seek cost-effective protections for coastal infrastructure. An example from the study is Copenhagen, where a 4 inch rise by 2050 will cost roughly $1.1 billion in damage if no preventative action is taken, but that cost is four times higher if sea level rise doubles to 8 inches. Sea levels could rise by as much as three feet by 2100, and the scientists say that their model will apply to any coastal city. The research underscores the need for incorporating resilience into planning and economic development.

Article: http://phys.org/news/2016-02-sea-faster.html

Study: http://www.nat-hazards-earth-syst-sci.net/16/1/2016/nhess-16-1-2016.pdf