Scientists Forecast ‘Staggering’ US Flood Costs by 2050 Due to Climate Change

By 2050, climate change is poised to boost US flood damage costs by over 25 percent, recent studies on Monday reveal, pinpointing disadvantaged areas as likely to shoulder the heftiest costs.

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Published in Nature Climate Change, the research utilized novel flood models, assessing the current and potential impact of sea level surges, tropical storms, and evolving weather patterns.

Projected losses span from homes to businesses, with the expectation that more individuals will reside in flood-prone regions.

“Climate shifts, alongside population changes, are doubling down on flood risk dangers, with mind-boggling financial consequences,” states Oliver Wing from the University of Bath’s Cabot Institute for the Environment.

Wing emphasizes the study as a “wake-up call” to cut emissions and adapt to the speeding climate threats “to lessen the harsh financial toll floods inflict on folks.”

Using data on property assets, community information, and flood forecasts, researchers gauged nationwide flood risks in the US.

Findings show that less affluent communities with a higher White population share currently suffer the most severe losses.

However, the anticipated rise in flood dangers will heavily affect African American communities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.

“The maps are telling—Black communities are set to be disproportionately hit in a hotter future, on top of the poorer White communities already shouldering historical risks,” Wing comments.

Map of predicted flood loss.Predicted flood losses in 10, 100, and 1000 years, Des Moines, IA. (fathom.global)

Predictions indicate average annual flood losses could surge by 26.4 percent, jumping from today’s $32 billion to $40.6 billion in 2050, using 2021’s dollar value.

The study points out these numbers are “essentially climatically locked in,” meaning they would persist despite dramatic drops in emissions.

The expanding US populace will also amplify flood risks, overshadowing even climate change effects.

With floods likely to worsen in densely populated zones, researchers predict the average yearly US population exposure to floods to reach above 7 million by 2050, up by 97 percent from present figures.

This spike in climate-driven exposure is especially concentrated on the US East Coast, with Texas and Florida residents facing an estimated 50-percent rise in flood exposure by 2050.

Researchers draw attention to the intensified settlement in existing floodplains, notably severe in the sparsely populated central Prairie States and the Deep South.

US maps showing predicted flood losses.Map of US annual average loss due to flooding by county, and its projected change by 2050. (fathom.global)

The study warns that even areas now deemed low-risk could face increased flood threats in upcoming years.

“Today’s western society faces an already intolerable flood risk, yet climate and demographic shifts are set to balloon these losses significantly,” remarks co-author Paul Bates, hydrology professor at the Cabot Institute for the Environment.

He concludes, “The relatively rapid timeline of these increases means we can’t just count on decarbonization to lower risks; we must also enhance our adaptation strategies for current and future scenarios.”

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