12 Jan 2024, 13:38
Benjamin Wehrmann

Researchers call for ramping up North Sea coast protection against rising sea levels and floods

Clean Energy Wire

Pressure is mounting to better protect the coasts of Germany and other North Sea countries against threats such as storm tides. Rising sea levels and increased rainfall and floods mean tides could become up to 150 centimetres taller by the end of the century, researchers from the Helmholtz Hereon institute have said. While storm tides have historically been a challenge for settlers in the North Sea region, climate change-induced increases in sea level and precipitation mean that the protective dyke architecture built over the past centuries no longer protects against flooding and saltwater intrusion in the hinterland. This increasingly is causing difficulties for agriculture, the researchers found. “Besides the increasing strain on coastal protection infrastructure and a faster erosion of dykes, problems will also start accumulating further inland,” said researcher Insa Meinke. Higher ocean levels and more rain in winter would change drainage mechanics in the very low-lying region, she warned. Sea levels are projected to rise by up to 75 cm even if current climate action measures are all implemented successfully, the researchers said. In the past century alone, sea levels have risen by about 20 cm. Germany’s winter floods in the past weeks could be a harbinger of “a bundling of challenging constellations” in which floods occur during storm season, said Meinke. The Helmholtz centre published a brochure that includes latest findings and communication on coastal protection which could serve as the basis for a public debate about concrete protection measures, the researchers added.

The latest update to the country's Adaptation Monitoring Report by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) in late 2023 found that Germany must step up its climate adaptation efforts as it faces more weather extremes, such as heavy floods or prolonged droughts. In a recent decision related to Germany's austerity measures linked to a court ruling on the limit for new debt, the government planned cuts to natural climate and ocean protection programmes, a measure that has alarmed environmental activists.

All texts created by the Clean Energy Wire are available under a “Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence (CC BY 4.0)” . They can be copied, shared and made publicly accessible by users so long as they give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made.
« previous news next news »


Researching a story? Drop CLEW a line or give us a call for background material and contacts.

+49 30 62858 497

Journalism for the energy transition

Get our Newsletter
Join our Network
Find an interviewee