Understanding the drivers of coastal flood exposure and risk from 1860 to 2100

Daniel Lincke, Jochen Hinkel, Matthias Mengel, Robert J. Nicholls

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Global coastal flood exposure (population and assets) has been growing since the beginning of the industrial age and is likely to continue to grow through 21st century. Three main drivers are responsible: (1) climate-related mean sea-level change, (2) vertical land movement contributing to relative sea-level rise, and (3) socio-economic development. This paper attributes growing coastal exposure and flood risk from 1860 to 2100 to these three drivers. For historic flood exposure (1860 to 2005) we find that the roughly six-fold increase in population exposure and 53-fold increase in asset exposure are almost completely explained by socio-economic development (>97% for population and >99% for assets). For future exposure (2005 to 2100), assuming a middle-of-the-road regionalized socio-economic scenario (SSP2) without coastal migration and sea-level rise according to RCP2.6 and RCP6.0, climate-change induced sea-level rise will become the most important driver for the growth in population exposure, while growth in asset exposure will still be mainly determined by socio-economic development.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021EF002584
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number12
Early online date17 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • attribution
  • coastal flood exposure
  • coastal flood risk
  • sea-level rise

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