Flood Resistance

Flood Resistance

How can we defend against flooding caused by climate change?

Globally our climate is changing. As a result, sea levels will rise and storms will happen more frequently and be more intense, providing real challenges to both the developed and developing world, but it is the developing that will be hardest hit because it is least prepared.

Sea level rise

Rising sea levels will cause a variety of problems. Low-lying parts of the coast may be lost and fertile areas may be submerged. Saltwater intrusion may make water from aquifers undrinkable. Coral reefs may be destroyed. Entire ways of life will have to change to combat these changes. Ultimately large numbers of people may have to migrate away from the coasts, putting pressure on inland areas.

Natural disasters

More frequent natural disasters will also result in costly societal effects, such as food and water shortages and loss of human lives. Developing countries are hit particularly hard by natural disasters such as flooding because they do not have the civil infrastructure, emergency planning, or trained human resources to cope with such extreme events.

Small Island Developing States (SIDS) suffer most

Small Island Developing States comprise some of the poorest and most vulnerable nations in the world. Small island nations are inherently vulnerable to natural disasters including storm surges, floods, droughts, tsunamis and cyclones given their geographic, topographic and physical characteristics, such as proximity to sea level.

Many reefs surrounding islands also serve to protect the coast from storm surges, but degradation of these reefs due to pollution and climate change also leaves coasts vulnerable.

Some SIDS do not have enough elevated ground to move people displaced due to sea level rise and so entire islands or countries may have to be evacuated.

Moving people to higher ground has its own problems, people live in deltas or by the sea so they can fish or farm. Not only does new housing need to be provided in higher locations, a livelihood must be provided too.

Adapt and become more flood resistant

Regardless of the debate over how climate change is caused, the effects of it are already being felt around the world and we must adapt how we live.

How important is it that we adapt to flooding?

The Copenhagen Accord placed a great deal of emphasis on adaption for climate change. It said, "adaption to the adverse effects of climate change and the potential impacts of response measures is a challenge faced by all countries."

How can we adapt to sea level rise and increasing flood frequency?

  • Monitor land use, stop people building in floodplains
  • Improve or build flood defences
  • Educate people living in flood prone areas
  • Raise land
  • Abandon land to the sea or the rivers, managed retreat
  • Raise homes or floor levels
  • Floating homes

Case Study - The Maldives

In 1992, President Gayoom of the Maldives said, "I stand before you as a representative of an endangered people. We are told that as a result of global warming and sea-level rise, my country, the Maldives, may sometime during the next century, disappear from the face of the Earth."

This statement was made before the impacts of climate change were widely understood, but were already being felt on the Maldive islands. At first the President tried political solutions; the Maldives were amongst the first to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol. However, when this made little difference the President tried a more hands on approach. The capital city Male is now protected by a huge flood defence, which whilst protecting the city, it is not very attractive.

The President's latest strategy is to use giant barges to dredge up coral sand and raise entire existing islands or create new, higher ones such as Hulhumale. The new island is a success, people want to live there and they are better protected from the sea.

Further reading

Pitt Review: Learning lessons from the 2007 report
Adapting to climate change: developing a policy framework, 2010