Flood exposure is increasing in coastal cities1, 2 owing to growing populations and assets, the changing climate3, and subsidence4, 5, 6. Here we provide a quantification of present and future flood losses in the 136 largest coastal cities. Using a new database of urban protection and different assumptions on adaptation, we account for existing and future flood defences. Average global flood losses in 2005 are estimated to be approximately US$6 billion per year, increasing to US$52 billion by 2050 with projected socio-economic change alone. With climate change and subsidence, present protection will need to be upgraded to avoid unacceptable losses of US$1 trillion or more per year. Even if adaptation investments maintain constant flood probability, subsidence and sea-level rise will increase global flood losses to US$60–63 billion per year in 2050. To maintain present flood risk, adaptation will need to reduce flood probabilities below present values. In this case, the magnitude of losses when floods do occur would increase, often by more than 50%, making it critical to also prepare for larger disasters than we experience today. The analysis identifies the cities that seem most vulnerable to these trends, that is, where the largest increase in losses can be expected.
At a glance
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