Thursday, September 23, 2010

Marcel Severijnen: Dutch practicality or soberness: the Deltaprogramme

In september 2008 the Dutch Deltacommissie (chair Prof. Veerman) published her view on how to deal with expected effects of climate change. The report (full or summary) while keeping sustainability as guidance, focused on safety levels, and some proposed measures.

Most attention was drawn towards the protection against higher levels of the Northsea, Ijsselmeer and major rivers like Rhine and Meuse. The commission estimated a 130 cm sea level rise at the end of the century, and the level for 2200 reached almost Al Gore’s values. It was the result of worst case scenario’s as elaborated in appendix 3 of the report.

The Deltacommissie was supported for this item by a group of 24 international experts who prepared an advice according to worst case conditions. Among them scientists of German origin: Sterl (KNMI-NL), Plag (Uni Nevada), Rahmstorf (PIK-Potsdam), von Storch and Weisse (GKSS). The commission’s estimate of sea level rise was presented without informing the international working group, and soon protest was heard from members of the group and from sceptic blogs, calling the estimate as too exaggerated. This was certainly meant to shock the nation, and surely helped to attain political support for funding the adviced measures.

Now, two years later, a first Delta Programme drawn up by Deltacommissioner Wim Kuijken is presented to the Lower House. This programme is the government’s response to the report of the Deltacommissie of 2008. Citation from the press release: “As proposed by the Delta Commissioner, this ‘new-style Delta Plan’ was drawn up using Dutch level-headedness. It is based on measurements and the 2006 scenarios of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). The programme is founded on a safe and flexible approach. The Delta Programme contains measures to secure the safety of our delta in the near future and offers a basis for preparing for the future.” (bold added).

Deltacommissioner Kuijken explained this soberness in an interview in NRC of september 21 and 22 (subscription needed):
We don’t want to start from extreme scenario’s for climate change and sea level rise, but from KNMI’s scenario’s (which levels are significant lower). Starting from actual knowledge and taking measures gradually like roofing tiles for the further future.” And: “Let’s at first try to reach our actual safety levels” Kuijken defines this sober approach as adaptive deltamanagement.
It seems that soberness and practicality has landed at last.