Using Sea-Level Science to Manage Climate Change Risks

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Using Sea-Level Science to Manage Climate Change Risks

The impacts of sea-level rise pose a threat to coastal communities, ecosystems, and economies.  Adaptation strategies to cope and deal with sea-level rise involve infrastructure and coastal development which can affect the community and coastal assets’ vulnerability and exposures for many generations to come.

Researchers Robert Kopp, Elisabeth Gilmore, Christopher Little and others look at the usability of sea-level science to manage risks. But ensuring usability comes with many challenges or questions that cannot be answered by sea-level projections such as:

  1. Deep uncertainty in sea-level projections. The source of which is the uncertainty in future anthropogenic emissions when considering the complexities of political, economic and technology involved.
  2. Robustness of Bottom-Up projections. This relies on the various models and the assumption used to calculate each term e.g. ice sheet and glacier mass loss, rate of anthropogenic emissions, and global temperature rise, etc. into the equation.
  3. The utility of probabilistic approaches. Probabilistic projection attempts to provide a probability of future sea-level change based on emissions scenarios. One of the benefits of this is to provide a framework for summarizing knowledge in the face of uncertainty. Probabilistic language is used for example, “likely” or “probable”, as these terms appeal to stakeholders oriented towards benefit-cost analysis and financial risk analysis.

The paper provides an overview of the sea-level science relevant to decision-makers and communities to develop their future coastal adaptation strategies.  Ultimately, it should combine the four basic approaches to coastal adaptation such as accommodation of more frequent flooding through social, economic and engineering changes; defence against flooding; advance reclamation of land from the ocean; and relocation through planned migration.  

Determining how to combine these approaches would require consideration of physical hazards due to sea-level rise, human response to their changing environment, and use of decision science approach to construct strategies that can stand against uncertainties and political and sociological barriers.

Read the entire paper by clicking on the link below:

Source citation:

Kopp, R.E., Gilmore, E.A., Little, C.M., Lorenzo-Trueba, J., Ramenzoni, V. C., & Sweet, W. V. (2019). Usable science for managing the risks of sea-level rise. Earth’s Future, 7, 1235-1269. Retrieved from

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