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Integrating new sea-level scenarios into coastal risk and adaptation assessments: An on-going process

Nicholls, Robert J. and Hanson, Susan E. and Lowe, Jason A. and Slangen, Aimée B.A. and Wahl, Thomas and Hinkel, Jochen and Long, Antony J. 'Integrating new sea-level scenarios into coastal risk and adaptation assessments: An on-going process.', WIREs Climate Change . e706.


The release of new and updated sea-level rise information, such as from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Reports, needs to be better anticipated in coastal risk and adaptation assessments. This requires risk and adaptation assessments to be regularly reviewed and updated as needed, reflecting the new information but retaining useful information from earlier assessments. In this paper, updated guidance on the types of sea-level rise information available is presented, including for sea-level extremes. An inter-comparison of the evolution of the headline projected ranges across all the IPCC reports show an increase from the Fourth and Fifth assessments to the most recent ‘Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate’ assessment. Later IPCC reports have begun to highlight the importance of potential high-end sea-level response, mainly reflecting uncertainties in the Greenland/Antarctic ice sheet components, and how this might be considered in scenarios. The methods that are developed here are practical and consider coastal risk assessment, adaptation planning and long-term decision making to be an ongoing process and ensure that despite the large uncertainties pragmatic adaptation decisions can be made. It is concluded that new sea-level information should not be seen as an automatic reason for abandoning existing assessments, but as an opportunity to review (i) the assessment’s robustness in the light of new science, and (ii) the utility of proactive adaptation and planning strategies, especially over the more uncertain longer-term.

Item Type:Article
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.
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Publisher statement:© 2021 The Authors. WIREs Climate Change published by Wiley Periodicals LLC. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Date accepted:11 January 2021
Date deposited:26 January 2021
Date of first online publication:22 March 2021
Date first made open access:08 April 2021

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