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Teaching activity

In the News Teaching Activity – Is it time for the UK to build more flood defences? (Jan 2024)

Elizabeth Veal

11th January 2024

It has been a miserable start to 2024 for many people as their homes have been badly flooded, travel has been disrupted and conditions have been dangerous. Many will be asking for more flood defences to be put in place. Flood defences are an example of a public good in economics.

Widespread heavy rainfall across the UK has led to hundreds of flood warnings, with homes in the Midlands and southern England particularly severely affected. Train services have been disrupted; canals have burst their banks. The Environment Agency predicted ongoing significant flooding impacts, declaring a major incident in the Midlands. Nottinghamshire county council urged residents along the River Trent to prepare for potential evacuation. Storm Henk's recent rains have saturated the ground, contributing to the flood risk. It is bleak picture for those affected. Many will call for more and better flood defences in the future as flooding is likely to be even more frequent due to climate change. However, as a public good, flood defences may be underprovided by the market.

UK weather: hundreds of flood warnings in place after heavy rain | UK weather | The Guardian

1 What is a public good? Explain how flood defences are an example of this concept.

2 Why might flood defences be underprovided by the market?

3 Discuss whether the government should provide more flood defences.

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Elizabeth Veal

Liz has taught Economics for over 25 years, including several years as Head of Economics at leading schools.

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