• SENSE Research Cluster IX: Managing global and climate change; adaptation strategies

    There is an urgent need for the development of long term strategies to combat climate change. After a long period where mitigation policies got most attention, there is a demand now to bring adaptation policies on equal footing. This is especially true for vulnerable areas like river basins, river deltas and coastal areas. With a focus on climate adaptation, participants in this cluster develop and assess adaptation policies in the Netherlands and internationally.

    This research field is fully embedded in societal developments. Research on adaptation policies, that integrates spatial analysis, economic analysis and policy instruments, has a high scientific complexity. The application of risk management requires special attention for a proper communication with stakeholders. Participants in this SENSE Research Cluster strive for scientific excellence, combined with clear societal communication.

    Featuring subjects, mechanisms and methods that are being developed and applied in this SENSE Research Cluster are, for example:

    • the costs and benefits of adaptation scenarios
    • difference in strategies for a steady climate change versus a abrupt climate change
    • future water management in river basins and coastal areas
    • the influence of global change on human health.

    We welcome experts in managing climate change at the global level to participate in this research cluster to exchange knowledge and stimulate new innovative developments (if you are not a member of the SENSE Research School but involved with this subject, then you are still welcome to enroll and participate in this research cluster).

    To read more about the SENSE research clusters in general, click HERE.

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    Coordinators and experts


    • Vacant

    SENSE key experts:

    • Prof. Ekko van Ierland (WU-ENR)
    • Prof. Pier Vellinga (WU-ESS & VU-IVM)
    • Prof. Jeroen Aerts (VU-IVM-SPACE)
    • Prof. Peter (P.P.J.) Driessen (UU-ESP)
    • Prof. A. (Anne) van der Veen (UT-ITC)
    • Prof. W. (Wouter) Verhoef (UT-ITC)

    Contact information:

    For more information about this research cluster, please contact Dr. Monique Gulickx (

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      To illustrate the urgency and relevance of new developments in this field, below we present some of the emerging research questions that are currently challenging both science and society in the research domain of SENSE Research Cluster IX:

      1. What kind of abrupt climate change could hit the Netherlands? What are social consequences? What would it cost to defend the Netherlands against them?
        Scientific and societal relevance: A climate system that does not change gradually but instead has tipping points, will have major social and political consequences. What can we learn from experience gained in dealing with climate-related natural disasters (coping strategies and adaptive capacity) of vulnerable communities? Can we define critical thresholds of impact to be avoided? What measures are necessary to give the Netherlands the resilience needed? How much will this cost, in the short and in the long run?
      2. How can we prepare for serious drought situations in the future?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Drought has a major impact on human wellbeing. It affects the environment (e.g. water quality, food and nature) and the economy (e.g. through health-heat waves, crop production, waterborne transport, energy provision-hydropower-cooling water and recreation). These impacts are serious as they cause loss of life, and especially in developing countries aggravation of poverty and mass migration. Impacts are likely to increase with time as demands on water and environmental services increase. Worldwide, 31 million people were affected by drought in 2006. Prolonged dry and hot weather causing less than normal water availability has always been a challenging issue within parts of Europe. This will even be more so in the future with the predicted impacts of climate change suggesting a dryer and warmer Mediterranean region and a shift of climatic regimes in Europe northwards. As a result there will be a considerable enhancement of variability in the summer climate, associated with higher risks of heat waves and droughts as experienced in recent years (2003, 2005 and 2006). In Northern parts of Europe longer snow-free seasons may lead to increased risk of summer droughts. Droughts thus not only concern southern Mediterranean countries, but also Northern and Central Europe ones. A prerequisite for an adequate assessment of the impacts of droughts (socio-economic, environmental), policy-making and associated water management (pro-active and re-active) is thorough knowledge on the space-time development of hydrological drought.
      3. How can we include climate change resilience in policy development and investment decisions for non climate sectors at different scale levels?
        Scientific and societal relevance: It is urgent to develop adaptation portfolios at different scale levels. Next to adaptation measures to be taken by sectors directly affected by climate change (e.g. water and flood management, heat management in built-up areas), it is important to develop policies for a broad range of societal actors. Being indirectly hit by climate change, their policies and investment decisions can contribute substantially to the overall resilience towards climate change. It is necessary to make an integral assessment of several portfolios.
      4. Can populated delta areas remain sustainable hubs of societies in the very long term (centuries), given the pressures their populations exert on land and fresh water resources, and the increasing risk of flooding?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Deltas are generally populous because many combine fertile soils, a moderate climate, sufficient fresh water (both surface and groundwater), and access to the sea. Thus, they provide sufficient resources to sustain a large population and offer the economic potential to allow the population to thrive. Nowadays, these hubs of society face numerous threats. Sea level rise is among the most obvious, but equally threatening are the dangers created by the population pressure itself: the local soil and freshwater resources are often overstretched and face degradation by pollution and depletion. With soil and freshwater resources under severe stress and the added threat of flooding, are large communities in delta areas sustainable? If not, what measures will be needed to regain a sufficient supply of fresh water?
      5. How can potential costs and benefits of climate change be measured, with and without adaptation and mitigation measures?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Gradual and abrupt climate change will result in different costs and benefits, at global, national and local scale. Adaptation and mitigation policies, while in first instance causing extra costs, have to result in a reduction of long-run costs and in an increase of benefits. We expect that cost and benefit profiles of several policy options will be quite different. For the Netherlands, the measurement of environmental trade-offs and co-benefits of CO2 emission reduction targets in 2020 and 2050 are of specific interest. As is always the case with Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA), one must take special attention to a proper assessment of non-monetary benefits.
      6. How can the implementation of recent scientific knowledge in international and national guidelines be accelerated?
        Scientific and societal relevance: Priorities in policy making are often based on outdated knowledge, despite active communication by scientists. For instance, risk assessment of chemicals in sediments is still based on legal guidelines for bioavailability that have been developed in the eighties. Using more refined methods can save millions to billions of Euros in remediation to be directed to truly contaminated sites. While new insights cannot always immediately be implemented in policy making because of research uncertainties, legal security, international laws etc., it is important to find ways to accelerate knowledge dissemination.
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        Here you will be able to find interesting articles, links to books that are worth reading, presentations that caught your attention, etc. To suggest items that should be placed here, please follow the instructions mentioned below
        or send an email to the (technical) coordinators.

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          Add a document to the Library

          Do you have any interesting articles, reports or other documents that you want to share within this research cluster? You can add the by clicking on Upload Documents below. Please note that your document will not be visible in the library immediately, because it first has to be approved by the coordinator. You can also contact him if you would like your suggested document to be brought under our attention in a different way or if you would like the document to appear differently in the library (there are some options available for that).

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            Discussion forum

            In this forum topics related to cluster I can be discussed, varying from scientific issues to organizational matters. The forum is very easy to use.

            To enter the forum, click on Forum RC IX below. You will go to the overview page of the forum, where you can see all existing discussions. If you click on a discussion title, you will enter the discussion. You can read all posts and you can also respond to them, by clicking Reply.

            To add a new discussion topic, you can click on Add a new discussion topic on top of the overview page. Please make sure that your new discussion is really new and does not overlap with existing discussions, otherwise the forum will get messy.

            The forum is maintained by the technical coordinator of the research cluster, who will remove any inappropriate contributions to the discussions.

            Please note the following!

            Everyone who enrolls in this course, is automatically subscribed to this forum and will receive e-mail notifications of every post on the forum. If you do not wish to be subscribed to the forum, you can click Unsubscribe from this forum in the top right corner of the forum overview page.

            If you do not want to receive too many notifications, you can adapt the forum settings for your account. To do so, follow these steps:
            a. Click on your username, which is always visible in blue in the bottom left corner of the page. You will go to your personal profile.
            b. Click Edit profile.
            c. Click Show advanced.
            d. In the field E-mail digest type you can now choose one of the three options: standard - notification of every post; daily an e-mail of all posts in full text; daily one e-mail with the titles of all posts. If there are no posts at all, you won’t get a summary e-mail either.
            e. You can also adapt other settings if you like.
            f. Scroll down and choose Update profile to activate your new settings.

            If you want to give feedback on the functioning of the forum or group page in general, then you are most welcome to leave a post in the discussion Technical feedback. The SENSE team will keep an eye on this discussion and will try to process your feedback as good as possible.