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New Climate Alert: "Low Country" Netherlands Facing Major Sea-Level Rise

The Dutch meteorological institute has released an alarming report in a country that is particularly prone to flooding.

New Climate Alert: "Low Country" Netherlands Facing Major Sea-Level Rise

Underwater city center in South Limburg

Meike Eijsberg

In its native Dutch language, the Netherlands is called Nederland, which means "low countries" and for good reason: approximately one-quarter of the coastal nation is below sea level, and more than half is susceptible to flooding.

This makes, even more, alarming a new report of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) that sea levels off the Dutch coast will rise between 1.2 and 2.0 meters by the end of this century if the planet does not succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, Dutch national broadcaster NOS reported this week.


The expected sea level rise is an upward revision, as the institute had previously concluded that the maximum sea level rise would be one meter. The updated findings, released just days before the opening of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, are based on the latest report by the UN climate panel IPCC.

Royals visit those affected by floods in the Netherlands

Utrecht Robin/Abaca via ZUMA

COP26: Northern Europe to Caribbean

According to Steven van Weyenberg, the State Secretary for Infrastructure and Water Management, "the urgency had been underestimated. The climate crisis is already with us," Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports.

The rising sea level is not the only risk mentioned in the report; so is the increase in dangerous weather events. Responding to these changes must become a top priority of the government, says Rogier van der Sande, chairman of the Union of Waterboards, an association of 21 governmental boards that govern regional water management in the Netherlands.

A sense of urgency

Van der Sande pointed to major flooding this summer in Limburg, North Holland and Friesland regions to show that "extreme weather is already causing problems today."

De Volkskrant newspaper also mentioned the report's research on the Caribbean islands that are special territories of the Netherlands, where the strength of hurricanes will increase.

This same risk also applies to small neighboring countries and other island nations that tend to have more at stake (and risk) in the upcoming COP26 talks, but less political power. For Dutch meteorological expert, Sybren Drijfhout, the summit cannot be another missed chance to make bold choices: "I hope the countries have this sense of urgency when they gather in Glasgow for the climate summit."

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