Losses and damages related to urban flooding and storms are likely to increase due to climate change. The insurance industry can potentially play a key role in climate change adaptation by contributing to the understanding of risks associated with climate change. By sharing data on the location of insurance claims associated with extreme rainfall or storms, the insurance industry can enable better-informed adaptation planning and risk management.
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Disaster risk reduction
The United Kingdom has historically experienced severe flood events, including that of summer 2007, which resulted in the loss of essential services including water and energy supply, as well as the destruction of infrastructures, with estimated costs exceeding £3.2 billion. About half a million people were immediately affected by this event, in terms of temporary absence of energy supply. In any of such flood event, once energy supply is impacted, so are other services as water distribution, transport, communication and health care.
Settlements, infrastructure, land use and road connections in the Grimsel area in southern Switzerland are heavily exposed to risks from hydrological and gravitational natural hazard processes, such as rock fall, mudflows, landslides, avalanches, and floods favoured by sedimentation of debris. Permafrost thawing, glacier retreat, and more frequent heavy rainfall events due to climate change are expected to further decrease slope stability and increase likelihood of mass movements.
Demographic change and climate change together place great challenges on the society. The life expectancy of the population in Germany rises and so does the share of older people. Besides chronic patients and children, the elderly are especially affected by the effects of the climate change. At the same time more and more people live in single person households (increase from 14.56 million in 2004 to 16.83 million in 2016 in Germany), which can influence their social isolation.
In 2003, a 10 day heatwave period caused over 2,000 excess deaths (compared to the same dates in the previous five years) in UK. As a response, the heatwave plan for England was first issued in 2014 and has since undergone annual updates (last update in May 2016 has not introduced changes to 2015 version that therefore it is the one still valid). The plan intends to protect the population from heat-related harm to health. It aims to prepare for, alert people to, and prevent, the major avoidable effects on health during periods of severe heat.
In 2002, Prague experienced severe flooding with total damage of 24 billion CZK (1 billion euro). This event was recognized as one of the most expensive weather-related disaster in the history of the city with heavy damages on infrastructure, housing and environment. Future climate scenarios predict a change in the number and intensity of extreme events, inter alia, increasing the risk of river flooding. Since the 2002 event, the implementation of flood control measures by Prague municipality substantially speeded up.
In response to flooding causing damage in Smolyan’s Ustovo neighbourhood in 2005, the city implemented a number of flood protection measures that presumably have paid off already during the wet year of 2014. Under the project, river banks were widened, existing protection walls were reinforced and new walls constructed. The cost of about 480,000 EUR was mainly derived from funding by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
From 1999 to 2011, the municipality of Timmendorfer Strand in Germany developed and implemented a coastal flood defence strategy using a participatory process. In 1999, a first discussion about an integrated coastal flood defence concept for the community of Timmendorfer Strand started. It was agreed that the concept should be accepted by a large number of stakeholders.
Over a century ago a sparsely populated landscape of water meadows was transformed into an industrial conurbation, and the untamed river Emscher, in the Ruhr area, turned into a man-made system of open waste waterways. Due to subsidence caused by mining, it was impossible to build an underground sewer system. Therefore, the Emscher and its tributaries were regulated and used to transport the wastewater together with rainwater on the surface. This made the Emscher simply a great open wastewater channel.
At Nijmegen, the Waal River bends sharply and narrows. This creates a bottleneck, which often caused flooding of the historic city centre of Nijmegen, located on the south bank of the Wall. After the floods of 1993 and 1995 and faced with increased risk of flooding due to climate change, the city of Nijmegen decided to give more room to the Waal River, at the same time protecting nearby natural habitats and providing recreational space.