Note: As more and more cities attempt to bounce back from flood-induced chaos, many “experts” are insisting upon the need to engineer flood protection and mitigation infrastructure. As long as the underlying causes that put so many at risk in low-lying urban areas-economic globalization, industrial and urban sprawl, and the aftershocks of neoliberalism-remain unaddressed, millions will be forced into cities and slums vulnerable to extreme flooding. And it is no coincidence that the same forces that drive migration to cities and slums are the same forces responsible for the climate chaos that threatens these areas.
-The GJEP Team
By Bruce Stutz, December 17, 2012. Source: Yale Environment 360
As economic activity and populations continue to expand in coastal urban areas, particularly in Asia, hundreds of trillions of dollars of infrastructure, industrial and office buildings, and homes are increasingly at risk from intensifying storms and rising sea levels.
By the middle of the century, the scores of billions it cost to compensate the greater New York City area for being unprepared for superstorm Sandy may seem like a bargain. Without major adaptation measures to increase the level of storm protection beyond a 1-in-100-year event, the value of the city’s buildings, transportation, and utilities utility infrastructures currently at risk from storm surges and flooding — an estimated $320 billion — will be worth $2 trillion by 2070, according to continuing studies by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
By then, the OECD says, the metropolitan area will rank behind only Miami and Guangzhou, China, at the head of a list of the world’s megacities with the most flood-vulnerable assets. In all these cities, sea level rise will meet a tide of urbanization in the coming decades and set the scene for storms with ever-more catastrophic consequences.
Some of those cities with the most at-risk assets now — Tokyo, New Orleans, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Nagoya — will, over the next 50 years, be surpassed by Calcutta, Shanghai, Mumbai, Tianjin, Bangkok, Ningbo, and Ho Chi Minh City, booming Asian coastal metropolitan areas where trillions of dollars in economic assets will be vulnerable. So will many millions of these cities’ residents, most of them poor and living in low-lying areas.
Just as banks grew “too big to fail,” over the next half-century these coastal megacities may grow “too big to flood.” But flood they will unless they dramatically revise their growth strategies and undertake major infrastructure projects designed to protect them from the dual threat of rising sea levels and intensifying storms, experts say.