Plausible responses to the threat of rapid sea-level rise in the Thames Estuary.

Lonsdale, K. G., Downing, T. E., Nicholls, R. J., Parker, D., Vafeidis, A. T., Dawson, R. and Hall, J. (2008) Plausible responses to the threat of rapid sea-level rise in the Thames Estuary. Climatic Change, 91 (1-2). pp. 145-169. DOI 10.1007/s10584-008-9483-0.

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This paper considers the perceptions and responses of selected stakeholders to a very low probability but high consequence climatic ‘surprise’—a scenario of rapid collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, producing a global rise in sea-level of 5 m over 100 years. It uses a case study of the Thames Estuary, UK, including London. Through a process of dialogue involving one-to-one interviews and a 1-day policy exercise, we addressed influences on decision-making when information is uncertain and our ability to plan, prepare for and implement effective ways of coping with this extreme scenario. The interviews and policy exercise explored plausible responses to the scenario and identified weaknesses in flood management approaches to dealing with such an occurrence. The analysis shows that an extreme scenario could be highly challenging, even for an area with well-developed institutions. Participants favoured two options (a) reconfiguring London around the rising water, and (b) building a new downstream barrier which would allow London to continue as today. The lack of consensus suggests the potential for policy paralysis in response to what is a highly uncertain phenomena—this could lead to a forced, unplanned response as the rapid change overwhelmed the existing defence capability. Hence, low probability, high consequence climatic events may challenge our existing institutions. Adaptive management is presented as an approach which could address this challenge.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: Extreme Scenario, Extreme Water Level, Thames Estuary, Policy Exercise, Thames Region
Research affiliation: Kiel University
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: No
DOI etc.: 10.1007/s10584-008-9483-0
ISSN: 0165-0009
Projects: Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2010 08:31
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 20:25

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