The UK has seen unprecedented rainfall and flooding in the 21st century; the autumn of 2000 was reported as the wettest in England and Wales since rainfall records began for these regions in 1766. Meanwhile, one in ten new housing developments is being constructed on a flood plain, despite warnings from the Environment Agency.
This winter’s flooding caused more than £5 billion in damage, uprooting thousands of families across the UK. Flooding can be even more severe for people in the developing world, where exposure is correlated with poverty. In 2010, Pakistan was hit with a costly series of floods, resulting in the deaths of almost 2,000 people. With millions of homes, schools and livestock destroyed, the total number of people affected amounted to more than 18 million. Between 2011 and 2014, significant loss of life due to flooding was reported in Australia, Brazil, South East Asia, Russia, Mexico and Eastern Europe.
Inspired by recent pressure for the UK government to reassess its flood prevention policies, we have published a briefing reviewing the evidence that population growth presents a critical challenge for flood protection. We conclude that pressure on city infrastructure is making floods more likely and more costly, while climate change, driven by overconsumption, is expected to bring about further increases in flooding through intensified rainfall and sea level rise over the coming decades.