Damage Costs Due to Floods in Europe Seen to Shoot Fivefold in 2050

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | March 3, 2014 4:51 PM EST

As Europe braces for potentially more devastating floods in the coming years, costs of damages will be shooting upward.

A study published in the Nature Climate Change journal by scientists from the Institute for Environmental Studies said the cost of flood damage will rise by 400 percent in Europe by 2050 as the average frequency of catastrophic European floods over the next 36 years will rise from one event every 16 years to one per decade.

 Currently, cases of very extreme floods have been observed to occur once every 50 years with extreme damage occurring once every 16 years. But as climate change and global warming escalate, this could shorten to every 30 years and once every 10 years, respectively.

Europe's current average losses ticket of 4.9 billion euros a year could jump 380 percent by 2050 to the tune of a whopping 23.5 billion euros, the study in the journal Nature Climate Change said.

"Due to climate change and GDP growth, by 2050 a one-in-fifty-years-flood might be one in 30 years so the frequency of such losses increases dramatically-almost doubling," Brenden Jongman, co-author researcher at the IVM Institute for Environmental Studies at VU University Amsterdam, said.

Factors included in the surging figures include cost of wrecked homes, belongings, businesses and infrastructure.

Better flood protection and insurance schemes could curb the costs of damage, if politicians have the strong will.

"For rare events [like England's wettest winter on record] the chances of it happening within the term of one government is low, so the incentive for politicians to invest in flood protection is quite low," Jongman said. "The cost is upfront but the benefits are over decades."

Austria, Germany, the UK and Scandinavia are especially "heavily at risk of flooding," Reinhard Mechler, deputy program director of Risk Policy and Vulnerability at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, said.

"But since river-flows across continental Europe are closely correlated, floods often happen simultaneously across much of the region."

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