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World - Think Tank: When the sea swallows your cities

Without building appropriate flood defences and engaging citizens, cities will be at risk of economic calamity.

Coastal cities know about the beauty of the sea but it is increasingly presenting them with a clear and present danger. Recent research has found that while the world is on course to experience a one inch rise in sea levels over the next decade, the growth is fourfold in coastal communities. This matters as they are home to more than 600 million people. Rising sea levels are not only a threat to livelihoods and homes but their very existence.

The triple threat of sea level rise, land sinking, and an increase in extreme weather events is putting coastal communities and their residents at tremendous risk. In the United States alone, according to its Geological Survey, “more than 75 per cent of declared Federal disasters are related to floods, and annual flood losses average almost $8 billion with over 90 fatalities per year".

Do cities take climate change seriously? Or seriously enough? Are they adequately prepared for the devastating impacts of flooding and extreme weather? It is difficult to say because there is no specific solution that applies to all cities. Climate change, and the effects of sea level rise, have layers upon layers of implications that create such a complex, tangled mess of challenges that it is difficult to provide one solution that addresses them all. Nonetheless, city leaders have a responsibility to plan accordingly and to act now. To wait, is to jeopardise the future of their city—especially the communities that will be most directly and negatively impacted.

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