Oct 24, 2023
Climate change is placing coastlines and low-lying areas more and more at-risk to flooding. But more people are moving into these areas. This is especially seen in parts of East Asia that have economic struggles. The trend could have profound impacts on human populations as severe floods become more frequent. This was revealed by a new World Bank study.
The study was published in the journal Nature. It found that since 1985, regions where humans live around the world have constantly grown in zones prone to flooding. High-hazard settlements in countries like China and Vietnam are among this group. Such places have increased in population 60% faster than flood-safe zones, the study said.
Likewise, Libya suffered a severe flood in September. It saw an 83% increase in settlements in high-hazard flood zones. Pakistan also saw deadly floods this past year. It had an 89% increase.
This trend occurs as people living in rural areas, and in poorer nations, seek jobs in urban areas, said Stephane Hallegatte. He's the study’s co-author. He's also a World Bank expert on climate and economics. He told The Associated Press that people who are seeking better lives and jobs "get stuck in bad lands because that’s what they can afford.”
The US is working against this trend. Settlements in drier zones in the US increased 76% while population in areas prone to high flooding rose 46%. Other major countries that bucked the trend: France, Sweden, Austria, Finland, Japan, Canada, and India.
Rather than population data, researchers used modern, high-resolution satellite images to track migration patterns. Overall, since 1985, the number of the world’s settlements in higher flood zones has increased 122%. This is compared to 80% for the safest areas.
Reflect: What are some ways we can help people who live in areas that might flood because of climate change?
Facing the Flood
In this lesson, students learn about how climate change is affecting flood risk in New Jersey.
MyCoast: New Jersey High Water
This interactive map and citizen science project allows students to examine images and a map of flooding instances in New Jersey.
Inside a City Redesigned for Superstorms and Sea Level Rise
This video from Grist shows how the city of Hoboken, New Jersey redesigned the city's infrastructure after Hurricane Sandy caused major flood damage in 2012.