Location: The Netherlands and regions of the Delta Programme
Status: Research-by-design on the spatial consequences of accelerated sea level rise
Client: Ministry of Internal Affairs (BZK/Atelier X), Delta Programme Commissioner, Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Recent scenarios show that the sea level might rise faster during the course of the 21st century than considered in the Delta scenarios that are currently used by the Delta Programme. It is unsure yet if this is really going to happen, but these scenarios do raise a lot of questions: What does this mean for the Netherlands? Which functions will be under pressure and which opportunities will arise?

Assigned by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Delta Programme Commissioner, we are working on the “Spatial design exploration on the consequences of accelerated sea level rise”. Based on a “what if” approach we explore possible spatial impacts of accelerated sea level rise, varying between 1 meter to a maximum of 3 meters in 2100. This is the range of accelerated sea level rise as it is used by Deltares in the report “Mogelijke gevolgen van versnelde zeespiegelstijging” (Possible impacts of accelerated sea level rise) and is based on the scenarios of the KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute), in which the accelerated breaking off and melting of Antarctica is included.

This spatial exploration aims to gain insight in the relations between sea level rise and expected spatial-economic developments, based on the system relations between sea level rise and the current water system (flood risk, water availability, stormwater management and the coastline).

Based on the insight of the system relations, the relations between sea level rise, the water system and spatial-economic developments are explored via a research-by-design approach. Thereby, possible attention points and opportunities are made clear, that can be relevant for future decisions on policy making and investments. The four by Deltares defined cornerstones for possible adaptation strategies (protection, accommodation, coastal advance, and strategic retreat) are used as starting point in this “what if” exercise. Using design research to explore: “What if we follow this adaptation strategy?”, insights of relations with effects on other assignments are generated. Specifically looked at are the relations with assignments and transitions in the field of urbanization, energy transition, ecology, economy, agriculture, and mobility.

Based on area specific workshops, the research by design exploration on the national scale and the identified relations with other assignments and transitions will be supplemented with insights and relations between (adaptation strategies for) accelerated sea level rise and area specific spatial-economic assignments. The area workshops will give insight into important opportunities, dilemmas, and knowledge questions for the preferred strategies for the different areas.