European Wilderness Society

Time to retreat from the coastline?

Recently, a new research paper was published in the journal Science, elaborating on whether we’ve come to the point where slowly but surely, some communities will have to start retreating from the coastline.

Rising sea levels

Scientists have discovered, that there is enough ice in Greenland to raise the sea levels by 7.5 meters. NASA’s OMG (Oceans Melting Greenland) Program has shed light to some alarming patterns, CNN reported. Due to the July heat waves, warmer surface temperature is melting Greenland. Moreover, the ocean temperature deep under the water is also rising. The warming water simply melts the foundation of the glaciers. Therefore the ice sheet of Greenland is getting thinner from the top and the bottom at the same time. Scientists also found a large opening of warm water near Helheim glacier, which in return is retreating by many meters each day. Large areas along the coast of Europe may soon be in serious danger, especially in the Netherlands, Belgium and Greece.

Is it time for strategic retreat?

Researchers suggest that it has come to a point, where we rethink retreating from the coastline. We tend to focus on strenghtening and building back what’s lost, therefore retreating is still seen as a last resort and a sign of surrender. Instead, we should step back and view it as the smartest option and an opportunity to build new communities.

Rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk: approximately 75 percent of the world’s cities are along coastlines. Strategic retreats would provide an option to think ahead. This would reduce the urgency of people to choose between suboptimal locations, and improve their circumstances. The retreat won’t be easy, as the paper points out. Forming new communities, transitioning, leaving behind areas that are integral part of us.

The paper proposes, that people should get access to climate-hazard maps that are updated regularly, and provide enough information so that communities can make well-thought-out decisions about risks. It may seem like a frightening scenario to all of us, but unfortunately, thinking ahead is a necessity, and thinking about retreating has become reality.

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