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Dams to control rising sea levels

Date: 19 February 2020 Tags: Climate Change


A  research paper has proposed an extraordinary measure to protect 25 million people and important economic regions of 15 Northern European countries from rising seas as a result of climate change: a mammoth Northern European Enclosure Dam (NEED) enclosing all of the North Sea.



The concept of constructing NEED showcases the extent of protection efforts that are required if mitigation efforts fail to limit sea level rise.



  • The scientists have proposed the construction of two dams of a combined length of 637 km,  the first between northern Scotland and western Norway, measuring 476 km and with an average depth of 121 m and maximum depth of 321 m.

  • The second between France and southwestern England, of length 161 km, and average depth of 85 m and maximum depth of 102 m.

  • It has also identified other regions in the world where such mega-enclosures could potentially be considered, including the Persian Gulf, the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Irish Sea, and the Red Sea.

Cost implications

  • The researchers have estimated the total costs associated with NEED at between €250 billion and €550 billion. If construction is spread over a 20-year period, this will work out to an annual expense of around 0.07%-0.16% of the GDP of the 15 Northern European countries that will be involved.

  • Construction costs would be higher for the UK, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium, amounting to roughly 0.15%-0.32% of their GDP annually for 20 years because of their vulnerability, awareness of SLR, or both.

Implications of dam

The construction will heavily impact marine and terrestrial ecosystems inside and outside the enclosure, will have social and cultural implications, and affect tourism and fisheries.

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