Coastal erosion and the climate challenge that erodes the European coast

Coastal erosion and the climate challenge that erodes the European coast

Coastal erosion may have been one of the topics discussed at COP26 in Glasgow on Monday. This is a major problem in Europe. If sea level rises by 37 cm by 2080, the infrastructure and heritage sites along the coast of the old continent will be in jeopardy.

As climate change causes sea levels to rise around the world, the small island nations are sounding the alarm bells of COP26 (October 31-November 12).

In its first week, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motili told a climate conference participants that a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature would cause the Caribbean island to rise to a “fatal” equivalent. Foreign Minister Simon Coffey in Tuvalu, an island nation in the South Pacific, recorded a knee-deep video statement for the Glasgow summit at sea to illustrate the scale of the problem.

But even in Europe, climate change is having a dramatic impact on coastal areas: rising sea levels mean that the waves are hitting the coast at higher levels, while more storms and changes in wind direction are destroying the earth.

On the other hand, despite the natural fluctuations in coastal areas, coastal populations and human infrastructure are increasing worldwide. “The problem is that we have assets built up along the coast: in Europe we have hotels, roads, houses and railroads that are liquid,” explains Larissa Neyler, professor of geomorphology and environmental geography at the University of Glasgow. France was contacted on the 24th.

Rising sea levels add an “extra layer” to the elements that are already playing, they said, adding that if a spring tide is matched by a storm, for example the complexity of rising sea level will increase the overall impact. “As climate change accelerates, there will be more damage and destruction along the coast, and society will be more and more affected,” said Larissa Neyler.

Endangered homes, railway lines and beaches

In some areas this phenomenon is faster than in others. On the Yorkshire coast of north-east England, an average of four meters of coastline disappears each year. But by 2020, in just nine months, ten meters of the three-kilometer stretch had disappeared. According to local council figures. Twenty houses are now likely to fall into the sea.

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In Ireland, the railway operator Irish Rail announced plans to invest 16.7 million euros in October To combat the “dangerous” rate of erosion near coastal railway lines.

In southern Europe, the livelihoods of many states are in danger. According to a Greek study published in 2017, Essential for the national tourism economy – up to 88% of all beaches in the country may be completely destroyed by the beginning of this century. Large scale land loss Seaside resorts are also planned In France, Spain, Portugal and Italy.

Despite this, there is a lack of data on coastal erosion on the old continent. The last European Union study on this subject is from 2004 : It also revealed that all countries with access to the sea have experienced coastal erosion in one form or another. 20 000 Km of coastline Seriously affected.

Although sea level rise and coastal erosion are a global problem, they pose a significant risk in Europe due to the high proportion of coastal and land areas on the continent. However, there are no European strategies to combat this phenomenon: many countries do not have suitable plans, and it is left to local governments to develop and finance their own solutions.

This is because the public is less aware of the problem than it is of issues like floods, and dealing with the problem involves a change in approach from solving the water loss. “As a society, we are not ready to do that,” said Larissa Nailer.

“Receive rising water”

She has started acting in some places. The city of Quiberville-sur-Mer, (Seine-Maritime, Normandy) has chosen a new approach: allow the sea to cross the shore instead of increasing the number of self-defense facilities, even if the houses change. Its mayor, Jean-Franോois Bloc, is over [s]e Facing the facts: We no longer have to oppose, we must accept and adapt to the reality of this rising sea level.

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Another French coastal city Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Pyrénées-Atlantiques) is experimenting with a similar project. : With 25 cm of coastal erosion per year, selected officials in the region have spent 6. 6.4 million to relocate hazardous infrastructure – campsites, restaurants, bars and a water treatment plant to safer locations.

>> To read at Rising waters: in Queberville, Normandy, betting on the ocean

This approach has its own challenges, according to Larissa Neyler: “How can the relocation of communities be funded? To what extent do inland communities accept the arrival of these people in their place?”

As the rate of coastal erosion increases, the difficulties associated with population displacement will have a greater impact on existing infrastructure and costs in European countries. The Professor of Geomorphology asks: “The Climate Change Commission report in England estimates that 8,000 properties in England will be subject to erosion in 2018 and will be 100,000 by 2100. This will be similar in other parts of Europe. How can you handle it as a community?”

Protection against coastal erosion

According to Larissa Taylor, another option is to build on existing land conservation using the “traditional hard engineering approach” or “green, nature-based solutions”.

The city of Marsexlok in Malta chose the first solution. In October, authorities announced Attempt of 2 million euros Temporary structures made of hundreds of large limestones, 70 m deep to limit coastal erosion. The barrier will extend from the shore to the sea, creating a protective wall to prevent sand and other debris.

This technology is similar to that used in the Netherlands 12 million cubic meters of sand was used to replace it Flying off the coast in the wind. These mounds can last for up to 25 years, but as the problem worsens, the sand will have to be replaced every year. Large quantities of sand are expected to be required, which is also a high cost.

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These systems can also be built in a more eco-friendly way to accommodate local organisms. The city of Portsmouth in the UK, for example, announced in early 2021 that it plans to build a two-kilometer sea wall to accommodate species from the cliffs.

All of these options also raise the question of how much to invest. “It’s not just the construction cost, it’s also the repairs and maintenance. It’s an extraordinary amount,” says Larissa Neyler. According to the specialist, “we do not have to evaluate all the financial gains in the long run”. Most importantly, she continues, “we need certain requirements to assess long-term climate risk.”

Questions to ask in COP26

The Geomorphology Professor hopes to raise these questions in COP26 on Monday, November 8, during discussions on adaptation, loss, and damage caused by climate change.

They cite the success story of a recent waterfront apartment building project in Edinburgh, Scotland. The contractors finally agreed to set up a coastal park as a buffer between the sea and the new buildings. This means we need to give space to nature and acknowledge that “we will lose a little bit of land when it comes to erosion,” Larissa Taylor explains.

It seems necessary to include this change in attitude on the agenda and to establish government frameworks that promote such measures, they said: “If that happens, it will help to make things more common, such as the need to adapt to coastal erosion.”

A recent study by the World Meteorological Organization Revealed that the average sea level doubled between 2013 and 2021 (compared to 1993-2002), one thing is for sure: more thoughtful and long-term solutions are needed. Basically, Larissa Neyler concludes, “It’s about making decisions now that will not cause great loss and damage to future generations.”

This article was translated into English by Jean-Luc Mounier. The original can be found here.

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