If no action is taken, global average storm surge damages could increase from about $10 billion to $40 billion per year today to up to $100 billion per year by the end of century, researchers at the University of Southampton reported Tuesday.
They were part of a study led by the Berlin-based think-tank Global Climate Forum that presented, for the first time, comprehensive global simulation results on future flood damages to buildings and infrastructure in coastal flood plains.
Both rising sea levels and population and economic growth in the coastal zones could drastically raise the level of damages, the researcher said, with Asia and Africa being particularly hard hit because of their rapidly growing coastal mega-cities such as Shanghai, Manila and Lagos.
"If we ignore this problem, the consequences will be dramatic," study lead author Jochen Hinkel of the GCF said.
In 2100, up to 600 million could be affected by coastal flooding if no adaptation measures are put in place, the researchers said.
"If we ignore sea-level rise, flood damages will progressively rise and presently good defenses will be degraded and ultimately overwhelmed," Southampton researcher Robert Nicholls said. "Hence we must start to adapt now, be that planning higher defenses, flood-proofing buildings and strategically planning coastal land use."