The Financial Cost Of Flooding

In my last post about water policy in the EU, I mentioned the potential for prohibitive costs to protect people and property from flooding.

CNN has today published a story about the likelyhood of seal-level flooding costing US$28 trillion by 2050.

This story is based on research for the insurance company Allianz - one place where the costs of floods will be severly felt - and the WWF ahead of the Copenhagen summit in early December.

As an aside, I’d expect lots more stories like this in the coming days. They are being timed to force attention onto the negotiations and - hopefully - to get everyone to agree a deal.

Whether this number is real, who can say? It seems big, very big. But then if you submerged London, New York, Rio, Barcelona and a few other large cities, the cost would be, well, very big. So let us not argue about the costs. It is only splitting hairs when the numbers are this big…

Instead, think about the impact on the property industries, insurance industry - and more importantly - national economies (it is worth bearing in mind that if, for example, London were to truly be flooded, a very large part of the UK economy would simply stop). The impact on the finances of the globe would be catastrophic.

To use an example that is happening right now, Cumbria in the North West of England has been hit by floods and heavy rain - while parts of Ireland are under water as well.

To quote from that BBC story, “The cost of damage is expected to run into tens of millions of pounds.” Those ‘tens of millions of pounds’ relate to 900 properties and businesses that have been hit.

Anyone that has been to Cumbria will know that it isn’t exactly the most densely populated place on earth, partly because of the multitude of hills and wild country. But of all places, they ought to be able to cope, after all, much of Cumbria is known as the ‘Lake District’. If they aren’t used to lots of water - and it rains a lot up there - who is?

So what would be the impact of major flooding hitting a capital city like London or New York? “Total economic shut-down” would be my guess.

And a new definition of the term ‘offshore banking haven’.

My mind has been changed. We need to take this ‘water’ thing much more seriously than we already do…

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