New study shows how damage caused by flooding could rise by over 20% in next century

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The study from the University of Bristol and Fathom assesses flood hazards using the most recent Met Office climate projections

New research has indicated how flood damage in the UK could rise by a fifth if international pledges to reduce carbon emissions are not met. The research is a combined effort from the University of Bristol and water risk organisation Fathom.

The findings outline how much flood damage could increase in the UK in the coming years. If the COP26 and Net Zero promises are not collectively met, the study shows the annual cost of flooding in the UK over the next century could grow by between 13% and 23%, depending on different levels of climate extreme projections.

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The detailed findings also highlight the places in the UK where risks will increase most rapidly, even under the best-case scenario where global warming is limited to 1.8 degrees C. These include south east England, south Wales, north west England and central Scotland, especially densely populated cities such as London, Cardiff, Manchester, Glasgow, and Edinburgh, where damage increases of more than 25% are possible.

Alternatively, the study also shows the areas where the risk of flooding will not change or remain very similar. These areas are the north-east, central england, eastern and northern Scotland.

Lead author Paul Bates, Professor of Hydrology at the University of Bristol and chairman of Fathom, said: “For the first time this flood model gives us a more accurate and detailed picture of the impact of climate change on the risk of flooding in the future across the UK. The results are a timely warning to the country’s political leaders and business sector that global commitments to significantly reduce carbon emissions must be taken very seriously, and ultimately take effect, in order to mitigate increased losses due to flooding.”

The full paper is called ‘A climate-conditioned catastrophe risk model for UK flooding’ by Paul D. Bates et al in Natural Hazards and Earth System Science.

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