Rising seas: to keep humans safe, let nature shape the coast

Even under the most conservative climate change scenarios, sea levels 30cm higher than at present seem all but certain on much of the U.K.’s coast by the end of this century. Depending on emission scenarios, sea levels one meter higher than at present by 2100 are also plausible. The knee-jerk reaction to sea level rise has traditionally been to maintain the shoreline’s position at all cost, by building new flood defense structures or upgrading old ones, but this traditional approach of “grey” engineered sea defenses locks society into ever increasing costs of replacement and maintenance. The alternatives are “nature-based solutions” to coastal flooding and erosion, which work with natural processes to reduce flood risk and incorporate ecosystems into flood defense.