As Sea Levels Rise, Are We Ready To Live Behind Giant Walls?

As Sea Levels Rise, Are We Ready To Live Behind Giant Walls? The Oosterscheldekering helps protect the Netherlands from North Sea flooding. XL Creations / shutterstock Hannah Cloke

Climate change, it’s fair to say, is complicated. And it’s big. One of the main challenges of responding effectively is simply getting your head around the scale of the problem.

This is not unique in the study of the physical world, of course. Scientists and economists spend a lot of time simplifying the complex real world into simpler, smaller parts, to find out how it all works. It’s one of the reasons we create “models” – mini versions of reality in which we can play, change variables, and see what happens.

We love it when we can find something out about the real world and present it in a form that is understood by other people. In environmental research, this sometimes comes in the form of the cost-benefit analysis that is understood by politicians and money-managers everywhere: spend this much cash now to make (or save) more money later.

A new study by European Commission scientists, now published in the journal Nature Communications, is a classic of this type. It looks at the costs of protecting coastal communities from climate change. The authors underline that our coasts will suffer from sea levels that are predicted to rise as much as one metre by the end of the century, as well as from more intense storms.

As Sea Levels Rise, Are We Ready To Live Behind Giant Walls? Much of the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, is already below sea level. This map shows the country without its dykes. wiki

Of all the many varied impacts in a warming planet, sea level rise is one of the most straightforward to predict, although it will not affect everywhere the same and so some communities will be more at risk than others. We can be quite confident that the sea level is rising due to climate change, because sea water expands as it warms and because extra water is flowing from melting glaciers and ice sheets.

As the oceans warm, the sea levels rise bit by bit – and if ice sheets on Antarctica or Greenland collapse and water currently locked up is released, then sea levels will rise very suddenly, and by a lot. It will be expensive to deal with these impacts, and this new research shows by quite how much in Europe. Given the costs of flooded coastal cities, the European Commission scientists suggest that it would save money in the long run to build improved sea defences around 70% of the continent’s coastline.

There are other options

Do we really want to live in a world in which we all live behind huge walls? Is this the only way to adapt? Many of us have trapped ourselves in places that will no longer be safe, and in some places building large defences is the only option. Certainly London will not survive without the next-generation Thames barrier.

But there are other options in other places, and we can “defend” in different ways. Nature-based solutions such as recreating dunes or marshland or retreating from coastal zones are possibilities that we should consider wherever we can.

These solutions work with natural processes and have loads of other benefits for wildlife and humans, as well as removing some of the worst issues of “hard” coastal defences such as the way concrete walls can simply displace erosion further along the coast to places which are not defended. But it would be unrealistic to think that these are options everywhere.

There may even be other more cost-effective ways to reduce the risk. This is certainly the case for river flooding, where, by using our best weather and river models, we can now predict in advance when and where they will flood and take early action to avoid damage.

But we’re still working hard at making these forecasts better and it remains very difficult to forecast floods. We have a long way to go until we’ve mastered the science, but it is only through combining methods – forecasting, natural-solutions, some hard defences and so on – that we will survive the watery future that awaits.

The cost of climate change even in this one small part of the world and for this one impact area is eyewatering. We have a choice. The first option would be to accept business as usual and pay to treat the symptoms. This will mean building enormous sea walls to deal with increased floods, and paying for disaster recovery operations.

The preferable alternative is to take a more nuanced approach. We know the climate is changing, and we will need a combination of more concrete, clever natural solutions, and better flood forecasts to prepare for what’s ahead. But by showing the sheer scale of the “hard” defences that would be needed on their own to keep Europeans safe, this new paper represents more scientific evidence that cutting emissions now, and mitigating the worst impacts, is the best future we can hope for.The Conversation

About The Author

Hannah Cloke, Professor of Hydrology, University of Reading

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

Climate Adaptation Finance and Investment in California

by Jesse M. Keenan
0367026074This book serves as a guide for local governments and private enterprises as they navigate the unchartered waters of investing in climate change adaptation and resilience. This book serves not only as a resource guide for identifying potential funding sources but also as a roadmap for asset management and public finance processes. It highlights practical synergies between funding mechanisms, as well as the conflicts that may arise between varying interests and strategies. While the main focus of this work is on the State of California, this book offers broader insights for how states, local governments and private enterprises can take those critical first steps in investing in society’s collective adaptation to climate change. Available On Amazon

Nature-Based Solutions to Climate Change Adaptation in Urban Areas: Linkages between Science, Policy and Practice

by Nadja Kabisch, Horst Korn, Jutta Stadler, Aletta Bonn
3030104176
This open access book brings together research findings and experiences from science, policy and practice to highlight and debate the importance of nature-based solutions to climate change adaptation in urban areas. Emphasis is given to the potential of nature-based approaches to create multiple-benefits for society.

The expert contributions present recommendations for creating synergies between ongoing policy processes, scientific programmes and practical implementation of climate change and nature conservation measures in global urban areas. Available On Amazon

A Critical Approach to Climate Change Adaptation: Discourses, Policies and Practices

by Silja Klepp, Libertad Chavez-Rodriguez
9781138056299This edited volume brings together critical research on climate change adaptation discourses, policies, and practices from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Drawing on examples from countries including Colombia, Mexico, Canada, Germany, Russia, Tanzania, Indonesia, and the Pacific Islands, the chapters describe how adaptation measures are interpreted, transformed, and implemented at grassroots level and how these measures are changing or interfering with power relations, legal pluralismm and local (ecological) knowledge. As a whole, the book challenges established perspectives of climate change adaptation by taking into account issues of cultural diversity, environmental justicem and human rights, as well as feminist or intersectional approaches. This innovative approach allows for analyses of the new configurations of knowledge and power that are evolving in the name of climate change adaptation. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.comelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

enafarzh-CNzh-TWdanltlfifrdeiwhihuiditjakomsnofaplptruesswsvthtrukurvi

follow InnerSelf on

facebook-icontwitter-iconrss-icon

 Get The Latest By Email

{emailcloak=off}

LATEST VIDEOS

Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate impasse
Talking About Energy Change Could Break The Climate Impasse
by InnerSelf Staff
Everyone has energy stories, whether they’re about a relative working on an oil rig, a parent teaching a child to turn…
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
Crops Could Face Double Trouble From Insects And A Warming Climate
by Gregg Howe and Nathan Havko
For millennia, insects and the plants they feed on have been engaged in a co-evolutionary battle: to eat or not be…
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
To Reach Zero Emissions Government Must Address Hurdles Putting People Off Electric Cars
by Swapnesh Masrani
Ambitious targets have been set by the UK and Scottish governments to become net-zero carbon economies by 2050 and 2045…
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
Spring Is Arriving Earlier Across The US, And That's Not Always Good News
by Theresa Crimmins
Across much of the United States, a warming climate has advanced the arrival of spring. This year is no exception.
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
The Last Ice Age Tells Us Why We Need To Care About A 2℃ Change In Temperature
by Alan N Williams, et al
The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that without a substantial decrease…
A Georgia Town Gets Half Of Its Electricity From President Jimmy Carter's Solar Farm
A Georgia Town Gets Half Of Its Electricity From President Jimmy Carter's Solar Farm
by Johnna Crider
Plains, Georgia, is a small town that is just south of Columbus, Macon, and Atlanta and north of Albany. It is the…
Majority of US Adults Believe Climate Change Is Most Important Issue Today
by American Psychological Association
As the effects of climate change become more evident, more than half of U.S. adults (56%) say climate change is the…
How These Three Financial Firms Could Change The Direction Of The Climate Crisis
How These Three Financial Firms Could Change The Direction Of The Climate Crisis
by Mangulina Jan Fichtner, et al
A silent revolution is happening in investing. It is a paradigm shift that will have a profound impact on corporations,…

LATEST ARTICLES

Heatwaves Too Hot And Wet For Human Life Are Here
Heatwaves Too Hot And Wet For Human Life Are Here Now
by Tim Radford
Lethal heatwaves carrying air turned too hot and wet to survive are a threat which has arrived, thanks to climate…
How Dangerous Is Low-level Radiation To Children?
How Dangerous Is Low-level Radiation To Children?
by Paul Brown
A rethink on the risks of low-level radiation would imperil the nuclear industry’s future − perhaps why there’s never…
What We Do Now Could Change Earth's Trajectory
What We Do Now Could Change Earth's Trajectory
by Pep Canadell, et al
The numbers of people cycling and walking in public spaces during COVID-19 has skyrocketed.
Marine Heatwaves Spell Trouble For Tropical Reef Fish — Even Before Corals Die
Marine Heatwaves Spell Trouble For Tropical Reef Fish — Even Before Corals Die
by Jennifer M.T. Magel and Julia K. Baum
Despite the many challenges facing the world’s oceans today, coral reefs remain strongholds of marine biodiversity.
Warnings of Worse-Than-Usual Hurricane Season Point to Trouble Ahead
Warnings of Worse-Than-Usual Hurricane Season Point to Trouble Ahead
by Eoin Higgins
Hurricane season is about to start and its risks will only grow and potentially compound any impacts from the pandemic.
Australia, It's Time To Talk About Our Water Emergency
Australia, It's Time To Talk About Our Water Emergency
by Quentin Grafton et al
There’s another climate change influence we must also face up to: increasingly scarce water on our continent.
Fossil Fuels Are Heading Down, But Not Yet Out
Fossil Fuels Are Heading Down, But Not Yet Out
by Kieran Cooke
Renewable energy is making rapid inroads into the market, but fossil fuels still wield enormous global influence.
Human Action Will Decide How Much Sea Levels Rise
Human Action Will Decide How Much Sea Levels Rise
by Tim Radford
Sea levels will go on rising, because of human action. By how much, though, depends on what humans do next.