How are European countries planning for sea level rise?

Last modified: 
January 18, 2021 - 12:57pm
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2021
Date published: 04/2021
Authors: Sadie McEvoy, Marjolijn Haasnoot, Robbert Biesbroek
Journal title: Ocean & Coastal Management
Volume: 203
Pages: 105512
ISSN: 09645691

Sea level rise (SLR) is projected to have severe consequences for people and assets in European coastal areas. Planning for SLR is a critical step to ensure timely and adequate responses. Despite our rapidly increasing understanding of SLR impacts and the need to adapt, few studies have looked at how countries are planning for SLR. We surveyed experts from the 32 European countries with a coastline about how their country is planning for SLR. Our online survey focused on four areas: (1) whether SLR planning exists and at what level of government; (2) which climate information and scenarios are used in planning; (3) what planning horizons and corresponding levels of SLR are used; and (4) how uncertainty in handled and whether high-end sea level rise is being considered in planning. Additionally, we asked experts to assess the status of sea level rise planning in their country. Our results indicate that most coastal countries in Europe are planning for SLR, but 25% still do not. We find that the planning horizon 2100 is most common and many countries are considering around 1m (adjusted for local conditions) of SLR at that point in time. However, there are significant differences between countries, which may lead to unequal impacts, over time. We also find that RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 are the most widely used climate change scenarios, suggesting that countries are considering high-end climate change in planning, although this does not mean they consider high amounts of SLR. Important questions remain about how planning is realized into levels of protection or preparedness and whether the amounts of SLR and planning horizons currently in use will lead countries to act in time.

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