HOW ROTTERDAM COPES WITH RISING SEAS

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15 june 2017

[4C Note (June 28, 2017): While the New York Times is to be commended for its extensive and informative report on the Dutch answer to future flooding from climate change, this article neglects other, less positive aspects of The Netherlands' response to global warming. No doubt influenced by the lobbying of fossil energy giant Shell, Dutch governments have been so laggard in living up to European norms for CO2 mitigation that they were subject to a successful lawsuit by environmental NGO Urgenda in 2015. For many years, they heavily subsidized a carbon capture and storage (CCS) project in the Rotterdam area long after independent observers ranging from Greenpeace to the McKinsey consultancy had warned against the leakage danger and excessive costs of CCS - the project was announced in today's Financieele Dagblad as abandoned because of investors' cold feet, despite the €330 million subsidy. Moreover, the article fails to consider the other predicted catastrophes associated with climate change: killer heat waves, out of control forest fires, inundation of most of the world's coastal cities, wars over scarce resources and the likely migrations of hundreds of millions of climate refugees to safer northern-situated countries.]

The Dutch Have Solutions to Rising Seas. The World Is Watching.

In the waterlogged Netherlands, climate change is considered neither a hypothetical nor a drag on the economy. Instead, it’s an opportunity
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By MICHAEL KIMMELMAN, The New York Times, JUNE 15, 2017


ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands — The wind over the canal stirred up whitecaps and rattled cafe umbrellas. Rowers strained toward a finish line and spectators hugged the shore. Henk Ovink, hawkish, wiry, head shaved, watched from a V.I.P. deck, one eye on the boats, the other, as usual, on his phone.

Mr. Ovink is the country’s globe-trotting salesman in chief for Dutch expertise on rising water and climate change. Like cheese in France or cars in Germany, climate change is a business in the Netherlands. Month in, month out, delegations from as far away as Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, New York and New Orleans make the rounds in the port city of Rotterdam. They often end up hiring Dutch firms, which dominate the global market in high-tech engineering and water management.

That’s because from the first moment settlers in this small nation started pumping water to clear land for farms and houses, water has been the central, existential fact of life in the Netherlands, a daily matter of survival and national identity. No place in Europe is under greater threat than this waterlogged country on the edge of the Continent. Much of the nation sits below sea level and is gradually sinking. Now climate change brings the prospect of rising tides and fiercer storms.

From a Dutch mind-set, climate change is not a hypothetical or a drag on the economy, but an opportunity. While the Trump administration withdraws from the Paris accord, the Dutch are pioneering a singular way forward.

It is, in essence, to let water in, where possible, not hope to subdue Mother Nature: to live with the water, rather than struggle to defeat it. The Dutch devise lakes, garages, parks and plazas that are a boon to daily life but also double as enormous reservoirs for when the seas and rivers spill over. You may wish to pretend that rising seas are a hoax perpetrated by scientists and a gullible news media. Or you can build barriers galore. But in the end, neither will provide adequate defense, the Dutch say.

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