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WIREs Clim Change
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Using adaptation tipping points to prepare for climate change and sea level rise: a case study in the Netherlands

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Abstract Studies on the impact of climate change and sea level rise usually take climate scenarios as their starting point. To support long‐term water management planning in the Netherlands, we carried out a study that started at the opposite end of the effect chain. In the study we refer to three aspects of water management, flood defense, drinking water supply, and protection of the Rotterdam Harbour. We examined whether, and for how long, current water management strategies will continue to be effective under different climate change scenarios. We did this by applying the concept of ‘adaptation tipping points’, and reached it if the magnitude of change is such that the current management strategy can no longer meet its objectives. Beyond the tipping points, an alternative adaptive strategy is needed. By applying this approach, the following basic questions of decision makers are answered: what are the first issues that we will face as a result of climate change and when can we expect this. The results show, for instance, that climate change and the rise in sea level are more likely to cause a threat to the fresh water supply in the west of the Netherlands than flooding. Expressing uncertainty in terms of the period that the existing strategy is effective (when will a critical point be reached) was found to be useful for the policy makers. © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. This article is categorized under: Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change > Learning from Cases and Analogies

Classical top‐down approach and adaptation tipping point approach to develop adaptation measures.

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Chloride concentrations and drinking water intake points along the tidal rivers in southwest Netherlands.

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The storm surge barrier (Maeslantkering) to protect the Rotterdam Harbour and exceedance frequencies (per year) of water levels in the Rotterdam Harbour assuming a sea level rise between 0 and 150 cm (Reprinted with permission from Ref 24 Copyright 2008).

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Flood safety standards in the Netherlands.

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The Rhine–Meuse delta.

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