Underwater

Do you remember when 2050 seemed like the distant future? It isn’t. If you can remember Kylie topping the charts with ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ then basically it’s the same amount of time again. In that context the results of a new climate change study by scientists at Princeton should be mildly terrifying. Previous thinking suggested that 37 million people would be living below high tide levels by 2050. Under the revised analysis, which adjusted for more accurate data on elevations, this figure increases to 150m. To make this a bit more real, major global cities such as Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh and Bangkok would be almost entirely underwater by this date. The most affected countries are in Asia and island nations. However, some specific locations in major Western economies (e.g. very populous areas in the coastal plain of Florida) are affected. Previously we have looked to reducing carbon emissions as the solution to this problem. However, as targets continue to go unmet, solutions will increasingly refocus on amelioration measures such as sea walls and other flood defences, (110m people worldwide are currently protected by these). In the UK the main coastal flooding issues are along the east coast, with towns like Boston and cities like Hull significantly at risk. In Hull where 98% of homes are in at-risk flooding areas, the local authority has introduced binding obligations for sustainable drainage provision. Ultimately there will be tough choices; invest significantly in enhanced flood defences (like the Netherlands) or stop development and relocate large numbers of people. The impacts are likely to be increasingly felt in mortgage applications, planning policy and the valuation of affected property.