And forget the worrying cartoon about how the Netherlands might one day be swallowed up by the sea. The Netherlands could technically deal with a sea level rise of up to three metres, which is a reassuring thought, because according to the latest models, the sea level rise off the Dutch coast until 2100 will probably reach a maximum of 1.2 metres, or perhaps 2.5 metres. If the ground ice in Antarctica would melt. The Netherlands has time to prepare for the future – no matter how uncertain it may be.
This is the gist of recent reports on sea level rise and the consequences for the Netherlands. “We must do everything we can to continue to protect ourselves from floods in the long term and learn to live with less fresh water,” researchers write for the “Temporary Balance” knowledge program on sea level rise that will be presented on Thursday at 12 p.m. :00 GMT. Delta Annual Conference.
The words sound like a warning. But the researchers then identified a long series of ideas and measures the Netherlands could take to deal with sea level rise. In fact, the tone remains the same as it was fifteen years ago, when an important Delta committee headed by former minister Cees Verman first presented proposals to make the Netherlands “climate resilient”: “There is no reason to panic, we have to worry.” “About the future,” says Fairman.
This calm determination also characterizes the Sea Level Rise Knowledge Program report. The body was created four years ago by Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen and Delta Commissioner Peter Glass, partly in response to reports of accelerating sea level rise.
Everything expresses confidence in the Netherlands’ ability to cope with a sea level rise of several meters with the current system of sand recharge, dike reinforcements and storm barriers. The Netherlands will only be able to choose long-term “solution directions” such as a new coastline when sea levels rise by a few more meters – at the earliest after the end of the century, and the uncertainty about this is high. a few kilometers from the existing coast, “in order to create a seaward storehouse for excess river water”, or to stop constantly building dams and adapt the use of space to increased flooding, inundation and salinization. This is called “moving along.”
“It is about keeping the lower Netherlands livable and inhabitable by adapting land use, construction methods and infrastructure and keeping the upper Netherlands economically vibrant,” the report says.
The reassuring tone does not mean that nothing should be done in the coming decades. Work is already being done every day to reinforce the most important flood defenses, huge amounts of sand are being sprayed on the coast, and storm barriers are also often closed. These measures must be expanded, as well as to retain the necessary fresh water. “Before sea levels rise by two metres, river water is increasingly insufficient to sustain all freshwater systems.”
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More sand will have to be extracted off the coast to replenish it, and this extraction interferes with shipping and wind turbines, among other things. Dams must be raised, strengthened and expanded. Storm barriers should be closed frequently and possibly replaced. And the most difficult thing: the space must remain free. For example, if sea level rises by three metres, dykes along rivers will need to be approximately ten to ninety metres, and locally this can be as much as one hundred and fifty metres.
“This tape must remain available, and this certainly will not happen spontaneously,” the researchers wrote. This is an understatement to those who sometimes talk about the inhabitants of ideal levee houses. The report describes permanent jobs such as housing within a strip along embankments as “undesirable” and that would cause resistance. “Retaining this space can lead to debate and tension, but it is of great importance to future water safety.”
It is true that it is indeed useful to take into account the possibility that sea levels will rise in about a hundred years. “New homes are often built with a life expectancy of fifty years, but in practice, where a residential area is located, homes often remain standing for centuries. Cables and power lines often remain in the same place for a very long time.
“Invest for the future” is the advice of the researchers. This encouragement sounds familiar, following a letter sent a year ago by Minister Harpers (Infrastructure and Water Management, VVD) about the need to let water and soil “guide” spatial planning: “There are already identifiable sites that can be identified.” Construction is not wise and should therefore be avoided.
For the part of the country where sea level rise could have an impact, a large number of investments are in the pipeline or already planned, according to the report, “together representing at least $650 billion through 2050.” This mainly concerns residential areas in the regions of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Almere and Zwolle, but also the ports in Rheinmund, along the Wadden coast and the West Scheldt, and the energy infrastructure in Eemshavn, Maasvlakte, Vlissingen and others. And don’t forget the plans for a second nuclear power plant in Borselli.
Moreover, Minister Harpers wrote on Wednesday that strengthening important flood defenses such as dunes and levees will cost several billion more in the coming years than expected, water managers estimate.
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