A framework for assessing the potential effectiveness of adaptation policies: Coastal risks and sea-level rise in the Maldives

Effective policies that integrate climate change considerations are crucial for successful adaptation to increasing climate risks. While there is an abundant normative literature proposing potential effective ways to adapt, there is a lack of empirical literature on current risk and adaptation policy and its potential effectiveness. Studying existing policies can help to reveal existing constraints, draw inferences about performance and design future policies. However, there is no established method for assessing risk management and adaptation policies. Addressing these gaps, we developed an analytical framework, combining and extending existing approaches, to assess the potential policy effectiveness in dealing with climate risks. The framework merges aspects of climate integration, policy coherence and compliance. Applying this framework to coastal risk management and coastal adaptation policies in the Maldives, we conducted a desk review of policy documents and semi-structured interviews with coastal policy experts and stakeholders. We find five policies addressing coastal risks and adaptation. One of these integrates sea-level rise considerations but is not legally binding. A key constraint on policy coherence are static approaches that ignore the variance in hydrodynamic hazard across the archipelago. Moreover, compliance is constrained by low capacities to monitor actual land use, political influence on the allocation of coastal protections and insufficient coastal protection budgets. Based on these findings, we expect that coastal policies are ill-prepared for dealing with sea-level rise and that scaling-up sea-level rise integration into policy is a critical first step towards improving this.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Gussmann, G., Hinkel, J. (2021). A framework for assessing the potential effectiveness of adaptation policies: Coastal risks and sea-level rise in the Maldives. Environmental Science & Policy. Volume 115: 35-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2020.09.028

New Paper on COVID-19 and Complexity

Although the first coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) wave has peaked with the second wave underway, the world is still struggling to manage potential systemic risks and unpredictability of the pandemic. A particular challenge is the “superspreading” of the virus, which starts abruptly, is difficult to predict, and can quickly escalate into medical and socio-economic emergencies that contribute to long-lasting crises challenging our current ways of life. In these uncertain times, organizations and societies worldwide are faced with the need to develop appropriate strategies and intervention portfolios that require fast understanding of the complex interdependencies in our world and rapid, flexible action to contain the spread of the virus as quickly as possible, thus preventing further disastrous consequences of the pandemic. We integrate perspectives from systems sciences, epidemiology, biology, social networks, and organizational research in the context of the superspreading phenomenon to understand the complex system of COVID-19 pandemic and develop suggestions for interventions aimed at rapid responses. View FULL PUBLICATION HERE

Keywords: complex systems; COVID-19; superspreading; networks; fast response; improvisation; interdisciplinary perspectives; transdisciplinarity; SARS-CoV-2; pandemic

New Paper: Lessons from the Mainland of China’s Epidemic Experience in the First Phase about the Growth Rules of Infected and Recovered Cases of COVID-19 Worldwide

The first phase of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that emerged at the end of 2019 has been brought under control in the mainland of China in March, while it is still spreading globally. When the pandemic will end is a question of great concern. A logistic model that depicts the growth rules of infected and recovered cases in China’s mainland may shed some light on this question. This model well explained the data by 13 April from 31 countries that have been experiencing serious COVID- 2019 outbreaks (R 2 C 0.95). Based on this model, the semi-saturation period (SSP) of infected cases in those countries ranges from 3 March to 18 June. According to the linear relationship between the growth rules for infected and for recovered cases identified from the Chinese data, we predicted that the SSP of the recovered cases outside China ranges from 22 March to 8 July. More importantly, we found a strong positive correlation between the SSP of infected cases and the timing of a government’s response.
Finally, this model was also applied to four regions that went through other coronavirus or Ebola virus epidemics (R 2 C 0.95). There is a negative correlation between the death rate and the logistic growth rate. These findings provide strong evidence for the effectiveness of rapid epidemic control measures in various countries.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Future urban development exacerbates coastal exposure in the Mediterranean

Changes in the spatial patterns and rate of urban development will be one of the main determinants of future coastal flood risk. Existing spatial projections of urban extent are, however, often available at coarse spatial resolutions, local geographical scales or for short time horizons, which limits their suitability for broad-scale coastal flood impact assessments. Here, we present a new set of spatially explicit projections of urban extent for ten countries in the Mediterranean, consistent with the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs). To model plausible future urban development, we develop an Urban Change Model, which uses input variables such as elevation, population density or road network and an artificial neural network to project urban development on a regional scale. The developed future projections for the five SSPs indicate that accounting for the spatial patterns of urban development can lead to significant differences in the assessment of future coastal urban exposure. The increase in exposure in the Extended Low Elevation Coastal Zone (E-LECZ = area below 20 m of elevation) until 2100 can vary, by up to 104%, depending on the urban development scenario chosen. This finding highlights that accounting for urban development in long-term adaptation planning, e.g. in the form of land-use planning, can be an effective measure for reducing future coastal flood risk on a regional scale.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Wolff, C., Nikoletopoulos, T., Hinkel, J., Vafeidis A. (2020). Future urban development exacerbates coastal exposure in the Mediterranean. Scientific Reports 10: 14420. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-70928-9

Multilevel governance of coastal flood risk reduction: A public finance perspective

Coastal flood risk reduction (CFRR) presents a significant public funding challenge, due to its high upfront costs and long-term benefits, and this challenge will increase with future sea-level rise. The funding challenge necessarily involves multiple levels of government, due to the regional nature of CFRR public goods involved. Yet there has been little research comparing such multilevel arrangements across countries, and in particular exploring the performance of public funding arrangements for providing coastal flood risk reduction. We address this gap, applying fiscal federalism to develop a multilevel governance analysis of public decision-making and fiscal authorities for CFRR in the Netherlands, Germany, the UK and Australia. For each country, we locate key decision-making and fiscal authorities in multilevel governance arrangements, and analyse their alignment with the benefits of CFRR measures (spillovers). We find diverse coastal flood risk governance arrangements ranging from highly centralised (NL), mixed arrangements, involving regional centralisation (Germany) or partial devolvement (UK), to full decentralisation (AUS). Further, we find that in accordance with fiscal federalism, multilevel coastal flood risk governance arrangements are generally reflective of the distribution of the benefits across different levels of government, with some exceptions (Germany and UK). Finally, exploring the outlook of current arrangements under sea-level rise, we find that major fiscal redistributions may be put under pressure by rising costs likely under SLR and future coastal development. This is particularly the case for those systems which operate under hazard-based, as opposed to risk-based, coastal protection policies. Further, we find that both fully and moderately decentralised arrangements may require greater central support for alternative measures, such as retreat, in light of growing financial burdens on local governments.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Bisaro A., de Bel M., Hinkel J., Kok S., Stojanovic T., Ware D. Multilevel governance of coastal flood risk reduction: A public finance perspective, Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 112, 2020, Pages 203-212, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2020.05.018.

A typology for analysing mitigation and adaptation win-win strategies

A sustainability transition in line with achieving global climate goals requires the implementation of win-win strategies (WWS), i.e. socioeconomic activities that enable economic gains while simultaneously contributing to climate change mitigation or adaptation measures. Such strategies are discussed in a variety of scientific communities, such as sustainability science, industrial ecology and symbiosis and circular economy. However, existing analyses of win-win strategies tend to take a systems perspective, while paying less attention to the specific actors and activities, or their interconnections, which are implicated in win-win strategies. Moreover, they hardly address adaptation WWS. To address these gaps and support the identification and enhancement of WWS for entrepreneurs and policy-makers, we propose a typology of WWS based on the concept of a value-consumption chain, which typically connects several producers with at least one consumer of a good or service. A consideration of these connections allows an evaluation of economic effects in a meso-economic perspective. We distinguish 34 different types of WWS of companies, households and the state, for which 23 real-world examples are identified. Further, contrary to prevailing views on the lack of a business case for adaptation, we do identify real-world adaptation WWS, though they remain underrepresented compared with mitigation WWS. Our typology can be used as an entry point for transdisciplinary research integrating assessment of individual transformative socioeconomic activities and highly aggregated approaches assessing, e.g. the macro-economic effects of WWS.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Meissner, F., Haas, A., Hinkel, J. et al. A typology for analysing mitigation and adaptation win-win strategies. Climatic Change 160, 539–564 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-020-02681-x

Economic motivation for raising coastal flood defenses in Europe

Extreme sea levels (ESLs) in Europe could rise by as much as one metre or more by the end of this century due to climate change. This poses significant challenges to safeguard coastal communities. Here we present a comprehensive analysis of economically efficient protection scenarios along Europe’s coastlines during the present century. We employ a probabilistic framework that integrates dynamic simulations of all ESL components and flood inundation, impact modelling and a cost-benefit analysis of raising dykes. We find that at least 83% of flood damages in Europe could be avoided by elevating dykes in an economically efficient way along 23.7%-32.1% of Europe’s coastline, specifically where high value conurbations exist. The European mean benefit to cost ratio of the investments varies from 8.3 to 14.9 while at country level this ranges between 1.6 and 34.3, with higher efficiencies for a scenario with high-end greenhouse gas emissions and strong socio-economic growth.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Vousdoukas, M.I., Mentaschi, L., Hinkel, J. et al. Economic motivation for raising coastal flood defenses in Europe. Nat Commun 11, 2119 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15665-3

The interview with Priv. -Doz. Dr. habil Jochen Hinkel is accessible here

The effectiveness of setback zones for adapting to sea-level rise in Croatia

The Mediterranean coastal zone is particularly vulnerable to climate-induced sea-level rise due to rapid coastal development, leading to increased flood exposure in coastal areas. In Croatia, the share of developed coastline is still lower than in other Mediterranean countries, but development has accelerated since the 1960s. Available assessments of future coastal flood risk take into account adaptation by hard structural protection measures but do not consider other options, such as retreat from exposed areas or restricting future development. In this study, we provide the first assessment of the effects of setback zones on future coastal flood impacts on national scale. We extend the flood impact and adaptation module of the DIVA modelling framework with models of restricted future development and slow retreat (managed realignment) in the form of setback zones. We apply this model to a downscaled database of coastal segments of the coastline of Croatia. We find that setback zones are an effective and efficient measure for coastal adaptation. Construction restriction and managed realignment reduce the future cost of coastal flooding significantly, especially in combination with protection. If protection and construction restriction by setback zones are combined, the future cost of coastal flooding can be reduced by up to 39%. Combining protection and managed realignment by setback zones can reduce the future cost of coastal flooding by up to 93%.

The online version of the paper is accessible here

Lincke, D., Wolff, C., Hinkel, J. et al. The effectiveness of setback zones for adapting to sea-level rise in Croatia. Reg Environ Change 20, 46 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-020-01628-3

Coronabonds: Welche Geschichte will Deutschland schreiben?

On March 31, Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte used an interview on German TV to tell German citizens that in the corona crisis we are not writing an economics textbook, we are writing history. He insisted that Europe needs Coronabonds as an exceptional instrument to finance the measures required to tackle the pandemic together with the economic breakdown the pandemic is causing worldwide. While many prominent voices in Germany concur, the German government is determined to block this proposal. The following statement argues that this is would indeed be a historical mistake. As the text is a short-term intervention directed at a German audience, it is written in German. A related English text will be available later on.

Read Carlo Jaeger’s take HERE

Responding to Sea Level Rise

The scale of the SLR challenge is immense and strong mitigation efforts are needed to avoid multiple meters of SLR within the next few centuries, which will be unmanageable for many coastal regions of the world. But even with such efforts, sea levels will continue to rise for decades and centuries to come. Thus coastal adaptation is essential in any future, but it will be much easier and more likely to be successful when combined with stringent mitigation. The important thing is to start exploring long-term adaptive strategies now if they are not already initiated.

The online version of the paper “Responding to Sea Level Rise” is accessible here

Hinkel J., Nicholls R., Responding to Sea Level Rise. Spring Bridge Issue and Climate Change. 2020, Volume 50, Issue 1