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Increasing stress on disaster-risk finance due to large floods


Recent major flood disasters have shown that single extreme events can affect multiple countries simultaneously1,2,3, which puts high pressure on trans-national risk reduction and risk transfer mechanisms4,5,6. So far, little is known about such flood hazard interdependencies across regions7,8 and the corresponding joint risks at regional to continental scales1,9. Reliable information on correlated loss probabilities is crucial for developing robust insurance schemes5 and public adaptation funds10, and for enhancing our understanding of climate change impacts9,11,12. Here we show that extreme discharges are strongly correlated across European river basins. We present probabilistic trends in continental flood risk, and demonstrate that observed extreme flood losses could more than double in frequency by 2050 under future climate change and socio-economic development. We suggest that risk management for these increasing losses is largely feasible, and we demonstrate that risk can be shared by expanding risk transfer financing, reduced by investing in flood protection, or absorbed by enhanced solidarity between countries. We conclude that these measures have vastly different efficiency, equity and acceptability implications, which need to be taken into account in broader consultation, for which our analysis provides a basis.

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Figure 1: Correlations of monthly peak discharges between basins in Europe.
Figure 2: Probabilistic projections of flood losses separated by financing source.
Figure 3: Options for loss sharing and risk reduction.

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This research was funded by the European Commission through the ENHANCE project (grant agreement number 308438). P.J.W. and W.J.W.B. received additional financial support from VENI grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). We are grateful to Munich Reinsurance Company for supplying data on flood losses from their NatCatSERVICE database.

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Authors and Affiliations



B.J. and P.J.W. were responsible for developing the protection standards methodology. S.H-S., G.P. and B.J. developed the probabilistic upscaling approach. B.J. and S.H-S. computed the financing distributions and adaptation scenarios. R.R. undertook the hydrological modelling and discharge correlation analysis. L.F. was primary responsible for modelling of potential damage. All authors, including J.C.J.H.A., L.M.B, R.M. and W.J.W.B., were involved in the conception and planning of the methods and analyses, and in the writing of the paper.

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Correspondence to Brenden Jongman or Rodrigo Rojas.

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Jongman, B., Hochrainer-Stigler, S., Feyen, L. et al. Increasing stress on disaster-risk finance due to large floods. Nature Clim Change 4, 264–268 (2014).

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