Abstract

Floods cause billions of dollars of damage each year1, and flood risks are expected to increase due to socio-economic development, subsidence, and climate change2,3,4. Implementing additional flood risk management measures can limit losses, protecting people and livelihoods5. Whilst several models have been developed to assess global-scale river-flood risk2,4,6,7,8, methods for evaluating flood risk management investments globally are lacking9. Here, we present a framework for assessing costs and benefits of structural flood protection measures in urban areas around the world. We demonstrate its use under different assumptions of current and future climate change and socio-economic development. Under these assumptions, investments in dykes may be economically attractive for reducing risk in large parts of the world, but not everywhere. In some regions, economically efficient investments could reduce future flood risk below today’s levels, in spite of climate change and economic growth. We also demonstrate the sensitivity of the results to different assumptions and parameters. The framework can be used to identify regions where river-flood protection investments should be prioritized, or where other risk-reducing strategies should be emphasized.

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Acknowledgements

The research leading to these results received funding from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) in the form of a VIDI grant (grant no. 016.161.324) and the Aqueduct Global Flood Analyzer project, via subsidy 5000002722 from the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The latter project is convened by the World Resources Institute. J.C.J.H.A. and W.J.W.B. received additional funding from the NWO in the form of VICI and VIDI Grants (grant no. 453.14.006 and 452.14.005). We thank O. Wing and M. Trigg for providing benchmarking inundation maps.

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Affiliations

  1. Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM), Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, 1081 HV Amsterdam, the Netherlands

    • Philip J. Ward
    • , Brenden Jongman
    • , Jeroen C. J. H. Aerts
    • , Wouter J. W. Botzen
    • , Andres Diaz Loaiza
    • , Paolo Scussolini
    •  & Hessel C. Winsemius
  2. Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, The World Bank Group, Washington DC 20433, USA

    • Brenden Jongman
  3. University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TH, UK

    • Paul D. Bates
  4. SSBN Flood Risk Solutions, Bristol BS1 6QH, UK

    • Paul D. Bates
  5. Utrecht University School of Economics (U.S.E.), Utrecht University, 3508 TC Utrecht, the Netherlands

    • Wouter J. W. Botzen
  6. The World Bank, Washington DC 20433, USA

    • Stephane Hallegatte
  7. Deltares, Delft/Utrecht, 2600 MH Delft, the Netherlands

    • Jarl M. Kind
    •  & Hessel C. Winsemius
  8. Twente University, 7500AE Enschede, the Netherlands

    • Jaap Kwadijk

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Contributions

All authors conceived and designed the experiments and contributed to discussions on, and writing of, the paper. P.J.W., B.J., P.S. and H.C.W. performed the experiments. P.J.W., A.D.L., P.S. and H.C.W. analysed the data. P.D.B. contributed to the benchmarking exercise.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Philip J. Ward.

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate3350

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