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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  13 Nov 2020

13 Nov 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Strategies for adapting to hazards and environmental inequalities in coastal urban areas: what kind of resilience for these territories?

Nathalie Long1, Pierre Cornut2, and Virginia Kolb1 Nathalie Long et al.
  • 1LIENSs, La Rochelle université - CNRS, 17000 La Rochelle, France
  • 2Faculté d’architecture et d’urbanisme, Université de Mons, Mons, Belgium

Abstract. The ongoing phenomenon of climate change is leading to an upsurge in the number of extreme events. Territories must adapt to these modifications in order to protect their populations and the properties present in coastal areas. The adaptation of coastal areas also aims to make them more resilient to future events. In this article, we examine two strategies for adapting to coastal risks: holding the coastal line through hard constructions such as seawalls or ripraps and the managed retreat of activities and populations to a part of the territory not exposed to hazards. In France, these approaches are financed by a solidarity insurance system at the national level as well as local taxes. These solidarity systems aim to compensate the affected populations and finance implementation of the strategies chosen by local authorities. However, the French mainland coast generally attracts affluent residents, the price of land being higher than inland. This situation induces the presence of inequalities in these territories, inequalities which can be maintained or reinforced in the short and medium term when a defence strategy based on hard constructions is implemented. In such a trajectory, it appears that these territories would be less resilient in the long term, because of the maintenance costs of the structures and the uncertainties relating to the hazards (submersion, rising sea levels, erosion). Conversely, with a managed retreat strategy, inequalities would instead be done away with, since property and populations would no longer be exposed to hazards, which would cost society less and would lead these territories towards greater resilience in the long term. Only one social group would be strongly impacted by this strategy in the short term when they are subjected to a managed retreat to another part of the territory.

Nathalie Long et al.

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Nathalie Long et al.

Nathalie Long et al.


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Latest update: 02 Dec 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Climate change is leading to an increase of extreme events and enforces the development of adaptation strategies to face coastal risk. These strategies modify the inequalities, barely considered during the decision-making process, and question the resilience of these territories. On the Atlantic French Coast, the study reveals that the managed retreat strategy seems the most sustainable over time whereas holding the coastline strategy reinforce inequalities and costs for the whole society.
Climate change is leading to an increase of extreme events and enforces the development of...