Published (reviewed and quality assured)
Justification for indicator selectionClimate change is an additional pressure and, as shown by the PESETA project on the effects of climate change on European coastal systems, is likely to have significant impacts on coastal zones, particularly through sea-level rise and changes in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as storms and associated surges. Coastal zones in Europe contain large human populations and significant socio-economic activities. They also support diverse ecosystems that provide important habitats and sources of food. One third of the EU population is estimated to live within 50 km of the coast, and some 140 000 km2 of land is currently within 1 m of sea level. Significantly inhabited coastal areas in countries such as the Netherlands, England, Denmark, Germany and Italy are already below normal high-tide levels, and more extensive areas are prone to flooding from storm surges. There are estimates of the physical impacts and economic costs to coasts in Europe from sea-level rise and flooding storm events. Results using the DIVA database and model produced from the DINAS-COASTS DG research project (DINAS-COAST Consortium) have been developed for Europe in the PESETA project.
However, there are many possible adaptation measures that can minimise the impacts of sea-level rise and would have significant benefits (including soft measures) such as: coastal defences (e.g. physical barriers to flooding and coastal erosion such as dikes and flood barriers); realignment of coastal defences landwards; abandonment (managed or unmanaged); measures to reduce the energy of near-shore waves and currents; coastal morphological management; and resilience-building strategies. Despite some difficulties in estimation, there is an increasing literature reporting the direct costs of adaptation to sea-level rise and estimating optimal levels of protection based on cost-benefit analysis.
Recent work (OECD, 2008) has also looked at threats to current and future major coastal cities from sea-level rise (0.5 metres global average) and storm surges.
- References ABI, 2006. Coastal Flood Risk -- Thinking for tomorrow, acting today. http://www.abi.org.uk/DISPLAY/default.asp?Menu_ID=773&Menu_All=1,773,0&Child_ID=651 . OECD, 2008. Authors: Nicholls, R.J., Hanson, S., Herweijer, C., Patmore, N., Hallegatte, S., Corfee-Morlot, J., Chateau, J., and Muir-Wood, R., 'Screening Study: Ranking Port Cities With High Exposure And Vulnerability To Climate Extremes Interim Analysis: Exposure Estimates', ENV/EPOC/GSP(2007)11.
- Modelled number of people flooded across Europe's coastal areas in 1961-1990 and in the 2080s
Policy context and targets
In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/adaptation/index_en.htm
No targets have been specified
Related policy documents
No related policy documents have been specified
Key policy question
Methodology for indicator calculation
Methodology for gap filling
No methodology references available.
EEA data references
- No datasets have been specified here.
External data references
Data sources in latest figures
Data sets uncertainty
No uncertainty has been specified
Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.
Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoHans-Martin Füssel
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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