Increased human and economic losses from river flooding with anthropogenic warming

Francesco Dottori, Wojciech Szewczyk, Juan Carlos Ciscar, Fang Zhao, Lorenzo Alfieri, Yukiko Hirabayashi, Alessandra Bianchi, Ignazio Mongelli, Katja Frieler, Richard A. Betts, Luc Feyen

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

323 Citations (Scopus)


River floods are among some of the costliest natural disasters1, but their socio-economic impacts under contrasting warming levels remain little explored2. Here, using a multi-model framework, we estimate human losses, direct economic damage and subsequent indirect impacts (welfare losses) under a range of temperature (1.5 °C, 2 °C and 3 °C warming)3 and socio-economic scenarios, assuming current vulnerability levels and in the absence of future adaptation. With temperature increases of 1.5 °C, depending on the socio-economic scenario, it is found that human losses from flooding could rise by 70–83%, direct flood damage by 160–240%, with a relative welfare reduction between 0.23 and 0.29%. In a 2 °C world, by contrast, the death toll is 50% higher, direct economic damage doubles and welfare losses grow to 0.4%. Impacts are notably higher under 3 C warming, but at the same time, variability between ensemble members also increases, leading to greater uncertainty regarding flood impacts at higher warming levels. Flood impacts are further shown to have an uneven regional distribution, with the greatest losses observed in the Asian continent at all analysed warming levels. It is clear that increased adaptation and mitigation efforts—perhaps through infrastructural investment4—are needed to offset increasing risk of river floods in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)781-786
Number of pages6
JournalNature Climate Change
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Sept 1
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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