Climate change and coastal risks : closely linked issues


Even today, Europe is still experiencing its greatest temperature increases. Exceptional elevations since the historical 45°c mark has been crossed in the French metropolitan territory. These variations are due to global warming, which could increase by at least 1.5°c on average according to the IPCC. The current global warming is leading to an intensification of extreme phenomena. More violent and frequent storms, greater natural hazards.

Increased exposure to erosion, marine flooding and rising water

In addition to warming temperatures, coastal risks such as erosion and rising sea levels are also expected to spike due to current climate challenges. Evidence of this is already apparent with a quarter of Europe's coastlines currently affected by erosion. In the case of Gironde, France, winter storms caused a 20 meter beach reduction in just a few days. Increased storms at sea are also leading to heavy wave activity and pressure on the coastline.

Human activity as a determining factor

Increasingly more people to moving to the coastlines. France, in particular, experienced a 17% increase in coastal residence between 2010 and 2040, equating to nearly 4 million inhabitants (INSEE). These demographic increases along the coasts amplify the factors adding pressure on the environment and therefore heighten the risks. (See illustration)

Human activity, such as urbanization in particular, is the main cause of accelerated erosion. Coastal risk management is therefore a key issue and focuses on four strategies.

The accommodation or reinforcement of natural processes that consists of greening a dune or installing wooden barriers to boost and support the natural process.

Passive monitoring, which is mostly carried out at sites where the stakes are lower. It allows the coastline to be measured regularly.

Relocation or strategic withdrawal, the last resort in the face of advancing sea and erosion levels is a relocation of assets inland. An option that many more communities have resorted to in order to redevelop natural areas to serve as environmental buffer zones, or sometimes as a final decision before disaster.

Active control, which remains the most widely used strategy to date, despite everything, through the creation of hard structures such as dikes or groins. However, this fight remains very unfavourable to the environment. It is therefore preferable to focus on accommodation strategies. 

Call for testimonies

As an NGO engaged in consultation, advocacy, lobbying and in the desire to counter the harmful effects on coastal preservation, Surfrider Europe calls on you for support! In order to enrich a database necessary to illustrate the effects of erosion, we ask you to send us any of the following testimonies, documents or archives:

Situation of exposure to the risks of marine flooding and/or erosion or having suffered disasters with a possible relocation in the coming years.

Example of damage from marine flooding and/or erosion, or having suffered a disaster that will lead to possible relocation in the coming years.

Association or communities with a heritage property in serious danger (2nd GM monument, place of worship, common property, historic building).

Historical photos with the possibility of making a before/after comparison showing a territory strongly marked by erosion, active coastal development or struggles against erosion in comparison with the original land before human impact.


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