Infrastructure Gap

Ill-Equipped to Tackle Climate Change

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    According to the United Nations’ IPCC, Germany is likely to see more frequent and intense heavy rain events in the coming years due to climate change.

  • Facts


    • Heavy rains in Berlin and the surrounding area in late June caused about €60 million in damage, while the damage from Elbe River flood in 2002 ran into the billions.
    • City officials have realized that urban drainage upgrades alone will not be sufficient to address the problems of flooding after heavy downpours.
    • Alternative measures include creating more green space to allow excess water to percolate into the soil, as well as collecting floodwater in low-lying city squares and underground rainwater retention basins.
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Hochwasser in Rhüden
Rhüden, Lower Saxony. There have to be better ways to cope with freak weather. Source: Silas Stein/DPA.

Anyone who thought Germany was well-prepared enough to cope with the effects of climate change was in for a rude awakening this summer. As a low pressure system dubbed “Alfred” battered the country this week, massive amounts of water flooded the market square in the picturesque town of Goslar on Wednesday, and in nearby areas there was almost a meter of flooding. A disaster alert was issued for the surrounding county and in the nearby city of Hildesheim, which held its breath for two days as its levees threatened to overflow.

Other parts of Germany were badly affected too. Heavy downpours in Berlin in recent weeks overwhelmed the city’s sewer system. Drains ran over; a building was undermined and had to be temporarily evacuated.

Flooding of this magnitude could happen more frequently in the future. Scientists are observing a growing number of heavy precipitation events in Germany, combined with local flooding. The economic damage runs into the millions and sometimes billions, as in the case of the catastrophic Elbe River floods in August 2002. In Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg, the heavy rains in late June caused about €60 million in damage, according to the German Insurance Association.

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