Adapting to flood risk: Evidence from global cities

From a VoxEU post by Sahil Gandhi, Matthew Kahn, Rajat Kochhar, Somik Lall, and Vaidehi Tandel:

Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of disasters, but the ability to cope varies widely across the globe. This column examines how city death tolls and economic activity are affected by flooding. Richer places with the resources and infrastructure to cope with disasters tend to be more resilient. Compared to cities in low-income countries, those in high-income countries suffered fewer deaths per disaster, adapted over the years to better mitigate the effects of flooding, and recovered faster from economic damage.

The major floods in India and Australia in 2022 have once again drawn attention to the destructive capacity of disasters. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of these shocks. At the same time, the ability to cope with disasters will vary widely across places and over time. The living conditions of households in India are very different from those in Australia. In India, a large proportion of urban households live in slums on hillslopes or other unsafe areas. The impact of similar disasters would be different for the two countries. Given that a majority of people around the world now live in cities, it is important to measure the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of such productive areas to disasters.

Cities in developing countries suffer more

Research on the impact of extreme weather predicts that the developing world, especially the poor and vulnerable populations, will be disproportionately affected (Mendelsohn et al. 2000, Mendelsohn et al. 2006, Tol 2009).

In our new paper (Gandhi et al. 2022), we use data on floods for 9,468 cities in 175 countries to examine the differential impact of floods on cities in high- and low-income countries. We combine monthly night light (VIIRS) data for these cities from 2012 to 2018 with a global dataset of geocoded disasters. Figure 1 shows that after a flood event, night lights fall and then recover. Floods disrupt life in cities through temporary power failures, disruption of essential services, damage to property, and temporary closure of offices and factories. These are reflected in the lights seen at night (Kocornik-Mina et al. 2016).”

Continue reading here.

Posted by at 8:14 AM

Labels: Global Housing Watch


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