Transatlantic Solutions to Sea Level Rise Adaptation:
Moving Beyond the Threat

October 30-31, 2013; Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Vulnerability, security risks and resilience of sea-level change in coastal communities

Jürgen Scheffran
Institute of Geography, KlimaCampus, University of Hamburg, Germany
Email: juergen.scheffran at, web:

While rising sea levels are a global indicator of climate change, associated consequences for social-ecological systems in coastal communities depend on regionally-specific conditions. Most important are the vulnerabilities to changing sea levels which are a function of the exposition and sensitivity as well as the adaptive capacity of communities. Changing sea level has a direct impact on the livelihood and human security of coastal populations and may affect infrastructures vital for society. Possible consequences include coastal flooding and erosion, intrusion of saline sea water into fresh water reservoirs and agricultural land. Many big cities and a large fraction of the world’s population located along the coastlines, as well as wetlands and river deltas could be severely affected. Social resilience to a large degree depends on human perceptions and response patterns to the challenges posed by sea-level rise. The consequences, risks and conflicts will be determined to a large degree by socio-economic factors, causal chains and action potentials. To provide a systematic analysis, the issue of sea-level rise will be integrated into a framework of climate-society interaction, involving systemic and actor-oriented approaches. Socio-economic contexts, security challenges and response strategies will be discussed and compared for low-lying coastal regions in North Germany, the Mediterranean and Southern Asia.