If you want to understand who is most at risk from flooding, there’s no better place to start than JRF’s programme looking at climate change and social justice.
One study on surface water flooding has some useful numbers: 2 million people in the UK are at risk from a 1-in-200 years flooding event; by 2050, we expect another 1.5 million people to be added to that group; and in areas it studied, places at higher risk of rain-related flooding had slightly higher proportions of vulnerable groups.
And another has some fascinating maps. The one below shows socio-spatial flood vulnerability in England (the full study looks at Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland).
This is a really important concept. It shows not just straightforward risk of flooding, but the social context around flood-risk areas to get a better sense of who is really vulnerable. By including things like sensitivity to flooding, ability to respond and ability to recover – determined by a whole range of things, such as proximity to medical facilities, availability of insurance, access to replacement accommodation and more – it provides, in the words of the report, a ‘geographical expression of how far an external event has the potential to convert into well-being losses.
The north of England quite obviously has some of the highest-risk areas. The report goes into some detail on how this is calculated. I’d really recommend the full thing if you’re interested in understanding who is at risk from climate change (it also looks at vulnerability to extreme heat).
For now, it’s worth comparing the above map to one looking at one particular group identified as at risk. This group had higher socio-spatial vulnerability due to indicators linked to poverty and deprivation – lower income, higher disability and unemployment rates, lone parents etc:
Now let’s compare that with a map showing deprivation overall in England (data taken from Experian overlaid on Google maps).
Funnily enough, there’s some pretty obvious overlap.
The full report has the detail, the nuances in the patterns, and more on the specific groups at risk – and there’s a strong relationship between poverty and vulnerability.
These maps suggest something pretty clear, which we should keep in mind when reacting to this week’s flooding: vulnerability is about your social context, not just your physical environment.