Christian Aid has released a report that shows which cities are most likely to be hit by coastal flooding in the future. The report highlights that the biggest carbon polluting countries are most at risk. The United States of America, China and India top the list.
Act Now Or Pay Later: Protecting a billion people in climate-threatened coastal cities, shows that 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.
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 USA 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 on May 23 and 24.
She said: “We are facing a head on collision between the growth of coastal urban areas and climate change which makes coastal flooding more likely.
“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.
“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. Spending money now on reducing the risk of disasters will save money and lives 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 per cent. This would bring the figure to $1 billion. Christian Aid is calling for a rise to 5 per cent.
Dr Doig added: “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. But donations to Christian Aid are helping lift people away from the floodwaters.
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 organisation 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.”
Mark Watts, Executive Director of C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, said: “Seventy per cent of C40 cities are already experiencing the effects of climate change and it is coastal and delta cities that are the most at risk from the impact of a rapidly warming planet.
“Mayors are already acting to protect citizens from climate related floods and storms and they are learning from those cities that have pioneered efforts to adapt, such as Rotterdam and Ho Chi Minh City. Now is the moment to invest and adapt our cities to protect the billion vulnerable people and trillions of dollars in assets.”