Governments should brace for a spate of climate change floods, warns study

Preparations should be made for an increase in the number of floods due to the impact of climate change according, to an Austrian study.

It called on governments and insurance companies to do more to build up flood defences because it’s typically more efficient to reduce risks before disasters than rebuild and pay out afterwards.

The report by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) said increasingly fierce floods linked to climate change presented a unique problem for insurers as it could affect large areas at the same time and trigger massive costs.

Researcher Susanne Hanger said if disaster insurance was not mandatory, only people in very high risk areas were likely to purchase it, meaning private companies were unlikely to want to provide the service.

Under these conditions Hanger said governments and private firms needed to work together to provide insurance options for residents and that authorities should invest more in building resilience before disasters strike.

“It is a fairly recent trend to support better risk-preparedness (before disasters),” Hanger said.

“This will be exceedingly important considering extreme events from climate change. Currently neither insurance nor governments successfully encourage risk reduction.”

The study analysed data from Austria, England and Romania, but did not provide data on the expected cost of climate change-related flooding or insurance payouts.

Providing compensation to residents affected by floods has little impact on individuals’ willingness to make personal risk reduction plans like installing guard walls to protect their homes from water damage, the study said.

Previously, many experts believed government aid packages for flood victims would mean individuals did not invest in preparedness as they expected authorities to provide compensation if disaster struck.

In Austria, residents have taken more measures to protect their homes from flooding than the other two countries, despite assistance being available post-disaster for homeowners from a government catastrophe fund.

Earlier this month, a study found that swathes of South Asia could become uninhabitable by humans by 2100 due to rising temperatures brought about by climate change. 

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