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12-10-2021

The impact of climate change on the Netherlands

Written by Karst Beens

In our previous blog we talked about the Netherlands and its dealings with water. This week we are talking about the impact of climate change on water and specifically how to deal with it.

Rising sea level

We start here with the rising sea level. This is (perhaps) the biggest problem for the Netherlands. But how is it actually possible that the sea level is rising?

To keep it simple, the main cause is the warming of the earth. This causes the ice caps to melt and that means that the sea level is rising worldwide. This mostly involves the melting of glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. The result: sea levels could rise between 26 and 82 centimeters over the next 100 years.

 

Source: KNMI

To bring the above information into focus, below is a picture of the Netherlands if the sea level rises 180 centimeters. If it were to come to that, in principle, half the Netherlands would be underwater.

Zeespiegelstijging laat provincie niet onberoerd - OOG Radio en Televisie

Rivers need more space

But not only is there a rise in sea level, rivers also have an increase in water in the coming years. Due to the melting of the glaciers (at the beginning of the Rhine, for example), there is more and more water in the river. There is also more rainfall, especially in the winter, which also ends up in the river through various routes.

It must also be taken into account that a river flows into the sea and thus the sea level rises. With high water in the rivers, the outlet of a river can cause a problem if the sea level also rises significantly. And the Netherlands is a river delta of the Rhine and Meuse rivers, which makes the situation even more difficult.

The above means that the pressure on the dikes around the rivers will increase and water will have to be retained more often because it can no longer be discharged all at once.

Petrification of the Netherlands

There is also something else at play for the Netherlands: petrification. This is not climate change but it does contribute to the problem. In short, all greenery, such as grass and trees, absorbs water. But paving, asphalt, et cetera do not. Logical, but after the above story about more rainwater and higher water levels in rivers, it’s still not convenient.

Not only do stones and asphalt not absorb water, it also makes rainwater runoff more difficult. For example, via pieces of greenery, rainwater returns to the river a lot less quickly compared to drains where the rainwater is already in the river within a day.

Finally, petrification helps to warm the earth, because the absorption capacity for heat increases. In this way, built-up areas are always at the expense of pieces of nature. So heat stays in cities much better and as a result the overall temperature rises. This ultimately has an effect on overall climate change as well.

 

Influence of foreign countries

Not all causes begin with the Netherlands. For example, there is also petrification in Germany. As a result, a larger wave of water comes to the Netherlands during large rainfalls. In Germany, too, there is large-scale petrification. So, in short, the Rhine has a lot less potential in Germany, but it does end up in the Netherlands.

The same applies to the Meuse, where the risk of flooding is perhaps even greater than for the Rhine. This river flows to the Netherlands via France and Belgium. Due to a general low water level in the Meuse, high water is a serious situation, but one which will become increasingly common in the time to come.

How can we counteract these changes?

Basically, there are two ways to prevent these effects:

  • Address the causes;
  • Preparing and protecting the Netherlands against the consequences.

Starting with tackling the causes and thus trying to prevent consequences:

For example, the Netherlands can pay attention to the emission of greenhouse gases, to reduce (slow down) global warming;
More green areas in the Netherlands, to absorb more water and more CO2.

The Netherlands can’t do much about climate change on a large scale, but by taking the initiative it doesn’t have to get worse. The Netherlands suffers from the major consequences of climate change, so we must start combating climate change ourselves.

Protect the Netherlands against the consequences of climate change.

In the coming years, the Netherlands will have to invest heavily in protecting the inland areas against high water. Coming from the sea, river or from the air, water enters the country anyway. Below are a number of examples of measures that the Netherlands can take to better protect itself:

  • Reinforcing dikes on the coast.
  • Reinforce the dikes around the rivers.
  • More (green) water storage places to hold excess water. See example: municipality of Arnhem!

More vegetation in cities to drain water more slowly.

These measures can all be implemented to prevent flooding. But how this can best be done and when which measure is exactly needed, we leave to the experts! However, we are happy to lend a hand in researching climate and pressure on cities. How do we do this? Read about it in the next blog!

 


Want to know more about the influence of water and climate change in the Netherlands? Ask us!

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