Governments around the world must reconsider coastal flooding policies, strategy and investment decisions because sea level rise is likely to be far greater than previously estimated, a group of UK-based engineers has said.
According to a report from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) published today, governments must step up their preparations for a minimum sea level rise of one metre this century and be planning for up to three metres.
Dr Tim Fox, report author and fellow of the IMechE, said there was emerging evidence that sea levels could rise further and more rapidly than the most recent predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
“In light of this, it is essential that governments and the engineering profession consider this when designing and implementing national policies and strategies for adaptation to future coastal flooding,” he said.
The report noted that due to technical, logistical and economic factors, a lot of infrastructure is located on the coast or on tidal estuaries, including power stations, oil refineries, gas processing plants, pharmaceuticals manufacturing and food processing plants as well as water and wastewater plants.
When coastal flooding happens at these types of facilities, the supplies of energy, food, medicines, goods and services are put at risk, it states.
However, the report notes that there is little evidence that owners and operators of these assets, whether in the public or private sector, have an awareness of the challenges of future coastal flooding or are making the investment necessary to implement adaptations or build resilience.
The report found that engineers needed to design new buildings and infrastructure, and retrofit those already in place to overcome the challenges of sea level rises.
In some cases designs may consist of barriers and walls, in others it may elevate designs on stilts, enable them to float temporarily or plan for occasional ingress of flood waters, according to the report. In extreme cases, the report accepts that some sites may be ruled out for occupation.
Fox added: “Engineered structures, devices and systems - particularly larger projects like bridges, roads or rail lines – can often be in service for 50-100 years. When we are thinking about projects this important to businesses and communities worldwide and the potential for how sea levels might change in that time, the pressing case for changing our thinking and our approach becomes clear.”
This article first appeared on ENDS Europe’s sister site ENDS Report.