Colloquium: April 7, 2015

Adaptation to Sea Level Rise: Protecting Against, or Preparing for, Inundation of the Coastal Zone?

Hans-Peter Plag

Tuesday, April 7, 2015 at 2:00 P.M. in the Pearl Young Theater
(video) within the Langley firewall only


Sea level has been exceptionally stable during the last 6,000 years, so humanity has developed large settlements in coastal zones throughout the world, which benefit from the many ecosystem services and logistic advantages such areas have to offer. The current coastal infrastructure relies on the expectation of a stable sea level and coastline. But the rapid changes observed in climate-related variables over recent decades, and the changes projected for the future point to a rise in sea level during the next few centuries far exceeding any changes experienced by past civilizations. This rise will lead to major changes in the coastline, with little options available to protect large areas of the coastal zone against inundation. The talk will propose a paradigm shift in how we think about coastal zones as a way to prepare for these expected future problems.


Hans-Peter Plag is the director of the Mitigation and Adaptation Research Institute (MARI) at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He has a broad background in Earth sciences and professional experience in academic institutions, government authorities, and private companies in Germany, Norway, U.K., South Africa and the U.S. This broad background enables him to participate in the development of adaptation science as a new field, which takes a comprehensive view on how society could prepare for climate and global change and make progress towards a sustainable and resilient global society.