Study: IPCC’s “Worst Case” Climate Change Scenario Leads To $40 Billion A Year In Losses In European Coastal Cities By 2100

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Using the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “worst case” scenario (RCP8.5) as the baseline, new research has determined that Europe’s coastal cities may be facing as much as $40 billion a year in associated economic losses by 2100.

The new study also determined that, overall, annual economic losses related to climate change in these coastal European cities will rise to $1.2 billion a year by 2030.

Before going further, it should be stated here that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC’s) “worst case” climate change scenario is highly conservative by some researchers’ estimations — things may well get far worse far faster than the IPCC scenarios “predict.” (Clearly, there are political factors that have gone into the creation of the IPCC figures … in addition to the actual climate science itself.)

The new study focused on just 19 of Europe’s major coastal cities, but the findings are potentially applicable elsewhere as well (even if perhaps just suggestively). The cities in question included: Rotterdam, London, Hamburg, Barcelona, Dublin, St. Petersburg, Istanbul, Copenhagen, and Marseille.

The press release provides more:

“For the first time, the report’s authors adapted into their modelling methods for dealing with uncertainty well known in other fields of economics, such as financial economics. They successfully applied them to so called ‘tail events’ and their possible impacts in the chosen cities. The study’s results show that despite their low probability of occurrence the huge scale of damage that tail events may cause means that they should be carefully considered in coastal vulnerability analysis.

“In 2030, just 13 years away, under a worst case emission scenario, Rotterdam tops the economic impact table with expected annual losses of almost $240-million, closely followed by Istanbul, St Petersburg, and Lisbon. By 2100 the expected annual losses in Istanbul could reach almost $10-billion, Odessa in the Ukraine could lose $6.5-billion annually and Rotterdam $5.5-billion. Glasgow and Dublin could both suffer economic losses of around $1.5-billion in annual economic losses by 2100.”

As a reminder here, roughly two-thirds of the world’s largest cities (so-called megacities) are situated in relatively low-lying areas that will be greatly affected by rising sea levels. In addition to the cities themselves, most associated deepwater seaports (which global trade is almost entirely dependent upon) are highly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

The press release continues: “The report urges local, regional, and national policy-makers not to settle for traditional approaches to calculating climate impacts but instead seek to introduce risk assessments under uncertainty into their decision-making processes. The authors say that in line with the level of risk in each coastal city and the risk aversion of decision-makers, adaptation measures will need to be implemented in the near future in order to avoid critical damage and major losses.”

Those wanting to read the study itself can find it here. The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science.

Photos by Enes and Reshma Chowdhury

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James Ayre

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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