Damages from extreme events like floods are even more relevant than the mean sea level itself when it comes to the costs of climate impacts for coastal regions. However, while it is now rather well understood how sea-levels will rise in the future, only small progress has been made estimating how the implied damage for cities at the coasts will increase during the next decades. A team of scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) now provides a method to quantify monetary losses from coastal floods under sea-level rise. For the first time, the scientists show that the damage costs consistently increase at a higher rate than the sea-level rise itself.
“When sea levels rise, damage costs rise even faster, our analyses show,” explains Markus Boettle, lead author of the study published in the journal Natural Hazards and the Earth System. Rising sea levels as a major impact of climate change pose a risk for coastal regions – the mean regional sea level rise takes effect by more frequent and more intense coastal flood events. “At the same time, the severity of flood impacts is not only determined by environmental factors, but also to a significant extent by human decisions: flood defense measures can counteract the increasing flood risk,” says Boettle. “Our study illustrates that the complexity of climate change, adaptation, and flood damage can be disentangled by surprisingly simple mathematical functions to provide estimates of the average annual costs of sea-level rise over a longer time period.”