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The Cork City flood of November 2009: Lessons for flood risk management and climate change adaptation at the urban scale

James M. Jeffers


Flood hazards are a pressing challenge in several Irish and European cities and their impacts seem likely to intensify as climate change brings sea level rise, changes in storm patterns and increases in rainfall. Drawing on the example of Cork City and the November 2009 flood in particular, this paper evaluates contemporary policy and decision-making responses to flood hazards to determine whether they are sufficient to address current and future flood risks and vulnerabilities. It is clear that current policy and practice remains heavily influenced by a risk management paradigm that emphasises physical exposure and largely ignores socio-economic vulnerability. Floods and the losses they induce are seen as identical while engineering and technological fixes are viewed as the optimal means of reducing future flood losses. This framing of flood hazards is shaped by several influences including the historic evolution of flood policy and current institutional structures. The November 2009 flood highlights the limits of current policy and practice. Recent changes in national and European policy may also prove to be ineffective in facilitating effective adaptation and further changes in policy and practice are likely to be required.

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