Analysis of the response to climate change and sea-level rise requires a link from climate change science to the resulting impacts and their policy implications. This paper explores the impacts of sea-level rise, particularly increased coastal flooding due to storm surges. In particular, it asks the simple question “how much will projected global sea-level rise exacerbate coastal flood problems, if ignored?” This is an important question to the intergovernmental process considering climate change. Further many countries presently ignore sea-level rise in long-term coastal planning, even though global sea levels are presently slowly rising. Using the model of Nicholls et al. [Global Environmental Change 9 (1999) S69], the analysis considers the flood impacts of sea-level rise on an “IS92a world” based on a consistent set of scenarios of global-mean sea-level rise, subsidence (where appropriate), coastal population change (usually increase), and flood defence standards (derived from GDP/capita). Two of the protection scenarios consider the possible upgrade of flood defences, but no allowance for global-mean sea-level rise is allowed to ensure consistency with the question being investigated. This model has been validated against national- and regional-scale assessments indicating that the relative results are reasonable, and the absolute results are of the right order of magnitude. The model estimates that 10 million people experienced flooding annually in 1990. It also predicts that the incidence of flooding will change without sea-level rise due to changes to the other three factors. Taking the full range of scenarios considered by 2100 the number of people flooded could be from 0.4 to 39 million/year. All the sea-level rise scenarios would cause an increase in flooding during the 21st century if measures to adapt to sea-level rise are not taken. However, there are significant uncertainties and the number of people who are estimated to experience flooding in 2100 is 16-388 million for the mid (55-cm) global-mean sea-level rise scenarios, and up to 510 million people/year for the high (96-cm) scenario. These results suggest that sea-level rise could be a significant problem if it is ignored, and hence it needs to be considered within the policy process considering climate change in terms of mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and adaptation (improved coastal management and planning) needs.