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Publications and Reports

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. This study presents a comprehensive analysis of economically efficient protection scenarios along Europe’s coastlines during the present century. A probabilistic framework was employed that integrates dynamic simulations of all ESL components and flood inundation, impact modelling and a cost-benefit analysis of raising dykes. Results indicate 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 coastal flood risk analysis was based on the model LISCOAST (large-scale integrated sea-level and coastal assessment tool) developed by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The modular framework has been developed to assess weather-related impacts in coastal areas in present and future climates. It combines state-of-the-art large-scale modelling tools and datasets to quantify hazard, exposure and vulnerability and compute consequent risks. The modelling framework was further extended to evaluate costs and benefits of heightening dyke heights and find the optimal adaptation design based on maximizing the net present value. Present and future extreme sea levels along Europe’s coastlines are based on state-of-the art projections of sea level rise, waves, storm surges and tides for a high emissions (RCP8.5) and moderate emissions (RCP4.5).

Reference information

Joint Research Centre

Published in Climate-ADAPT Jul 13 2020   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Dec 12 2023

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