Scientists have revealed the 20 countries with the highest number of towns and cities prone to potentially deadly flooding due to climate change.
The researchers are worried because settlements are expanding into flood danger zones rather than moving away from them – threatening lives in the near future.
Netherlands is at the top of their list, followed by Vietnam, Southeast Asian country Laos, Bangladesh and Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean.
But also in the top 20 is Japan, China, Switzerland, Croatia, Austria, Egypt, and South and North Korea.
Although the UK is not on the new list, previous research has revealed that one in six English properties could be hit by flooding by 2050 amid sea level rises.
Scientists have revealed the 20 countries with the highest number of settlements prone to potentially deadly flooding due to climate change
Scientists have provided a grave warning today – stop building houses in flood danger zones (areas that are prone to flooding due to climate change). Pictured, aerial view of the same location in Quảng Nam, Vietnam, in 2002 (left) and 2021 (right). Note the expansion of buildings, mostly homes, in flood-prone areas near the water
The new study was led by Jun Rentschler, an economist at The World Bank, the global financial institution based in Washington, DC.
Flood exposure was found to be particularly high for countries in which settlements concentrate along river valleys and basins (such as Bhutan, Egypt and Bangladesh) and coastal areas (such as Fiji and Vietnam) or both (like the Netherlands).
‘Since 1985, human settlements around the world – from villages to megacities – have expanded continuously and rapidly into present-day food zones,’ Rentschler and colleagues say in their study.
‘In many regions, growth in the most hazardous food zones is outpacing growth in non-exposed zones by a large margin, particularly in East Asia.
‘Rather than adapting their exposure to climatic hazards, many countries are actively increasing it.
According to the experts, ‘evidence is mounting’ that climate change is driving up the likelihood of ‘extreme natural shocks’, such as flooding.
Warming of the climate is being powered by the release of gases such as CO2 and methane into the atmosphere, which trap heat (known as the greenhouse effect).
Global warming is already melting ice in the polar regions, and this meltwater is entering the oceans, gradually causing a rise in sea levels and severe flooding.
Warmer air can also hold more water, so rainfall is increasing on average across the world, which adds to the threat of flooding, as recently seen in New York.
Scientists already think the people most at risk of death due to rising sea levels are those living in coastal regions, which will be the first to go permanently underwater.
Netherlands is at the top of the list, followed by Vietnam, North African country Laos, Bangladesh and Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean
Scientists are blaming increased heavy rainfalls caused by climate change for the recent floods in the New York area (pictured). Warmer air can hold more water, so rainfall is increasing on average across the world, according to the Met Office
READ MORE Big Apple recorded wettest day EVER
Flooding throughout the city prompted Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochui to declare states of emergency which are still in effect as of Friday evening
For the study, the team combined global flood hazard data with annual ‘settlement footprint data’ – showing where people live and work in towns and cities – from 1985 to 2015.
They found the world’s overall settlement extent has increased by 85.4 per cent during this 30-year period.
But settlements with ‘high flood-hazard exposure’ – defined as areas at risk of flooding depths of more than 60 inches (150cm) during 1-in-100-year flood events – grew by a whopping 105.8 per cent.
Meanwhile, the number of settlements exposed to the highest flood-hazard level in the period rose by a worrying 121.6 per cent.
Unfortunately, even in high-income countries such as the Netherlands, many settlements are not protected against such 1-in-100-year flood hazards.
The story is a lot worse in low-income and middle-income countries in the top 20 list, like Laos and Vietnam, where funding to build such defences is unavailable.
For example, in Laos and Vietnam there are many ‘highly exposed’ settlements without strong protection systems.
Although Netherlands is top of the list in terms of settlements in danger zones, it’s one of a few countries, along with Japan and the US, that are investing heavily in protecting settlements that were already in high-hazard flood zones in 1985.
For example, Dutch authorities have set up sea dykes – manmade structures designed to protect low-lying areas – to protect against storm surges.
Although the world’s overall settlement extent has increased by 85.4 per cent, settlements with high flood-hazard exposure have grown by 105.8 per cent and those exposed to the highest flood-hazard level by 121.6 per cent
Pictured, new flood gates, part of a storm protection project, in a section of Middletown, New Jersey, that was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy in 2012
Images of citizens dealing with floods are becoming the norm. Pictured, flooded street in Lagos, Nigeria in September 2023
The researchers say their findings ‘carry concrete implications for urban planners and policymakers’ around the world – not just in the top 20 nations.
‘In areas in which flood exposure is already high, investments in disaster preparedness are crucial to mitigate losses,’ they say.
‘In areas in which flood exposure is still low but increasing rapidly, revision of land use and urbanization plans is urgent, along with updating risk-informed building codes and infrastructure master plans.
‘Although land scarcity and geographic constraints may mean that settling in flood zones cannot always be avoided, flood-protection systems and disaster-preparedness measures can still support resilient socio-economic development.’
The study has been published today in the journal Nature.
One BILLION people will die from climate change by 2100, study claims
Scientists have given a terrifying prediction about the future of humanity on this planet.
According to experts in Canada, one billion people – one eighth of the current global population – will die due to climate change if global warming reaches or exceeds 3.6°F (2°C) by 2100.
Most of those who die will be poorer humans living in the developing world, they say, while the ones contributing to mass fatalities will likely be the top execs at multi-billion dollar oil and gas companies.
Deaths will be triggered by various catastrophes including flooding due to melted ice, wildfires, disease, severe weather events such as drought, and much more.