Almost a quarter of the world’s population faces significant flood risks, according to a new study released Tuesday, which warns that people in poorer countries are more vulnerable.
Flooding from heavy rains and storm surges affects millions of people every year and causes billions of dollars in damage to homes, infrastructure and economies.
And risks are increasing as climate change causes more extreme rainfall and sea level rise as exposed populations swell.
The new study, published in the journal Nature Communications, examined global data on flood risks from oceans, rivers and rainfall, as well as population distribution and poverty estimates from the World Bank.
It found that about 1.81 billion people — or 23 percent of the people on the planet — are directly exposed to flooding greater than 15 centimeters (six inches) in 1-in-100-year floods.
“This would pose significant risks to lives and livelihoods, particularly of vulnerable populations,” the study said.
Overall, according to the study, almost 90 percent of those at risk of flooding live in low- and middle-income countries.
It also concluded that the number of people living in poverty and at high risk of flooding is “substantially higher than previously thought”.
Researchers found that around $9.8 trillion in global economic activity — about 12 percent of global gross domestic product in 2020 — is located in areas prone to severe flooding.
However, they said that focusing on one monetary value could direct attention to higher-income countries and economic hubs.
“By accounting for the poverty levels of exposed populations, we show that low-income countries are disproportionately exposed to flood risks while being more vulnerable to long-term catastrophic consequences,” the study by World Bank’s Jun Rentschler and colleagues said.
– Growing Risks –
Overall, the study estimates that most people exposed to flooding – 1.24 billion – live in South and East Asia, with China and India accounting for over a third of the global total.
Around 780 million people living on less than US$5.50 a day are threatened by flooding, which occurs every hundred years.
The research provides “the first global estimates of the interaction between flood risk and poverty,” said Thomas McDermott of the National University of Ireland Galway in a linked commentary published in Nature Communications.
The authors said previous studies were often limited by geography or the type of flood risk assessed and had underestimated how many people around the world are exposed to it.
“Climate change and risky urbanization patterns are expected to further exacerbate these risks in the coming years,” they added.
Global warming has made extreme rain events more frequent and intense in most parts of the world, according to World Weather Attribution, a network of scientists tracking the effects of climate change.
This is likely to have made the flooding more severe in these areas, although scientists stress that other human factors also play a role, such as: B. Decisions about where to build homes and infrastructure.
Record floods in southern China have displaced more than half a million people this month.
In Bangladesh, the Red Cross on Tuesday said seven million people were still “urgently” in need of shelter and assistance after some of the heaviest rains in a century caused rivers to surge to record levels and inundate rural villages.
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