8 October 2019

Maarten Hajer in 'Buitenhof'

Using sea level scenarios to anticipate the future

Maarten Hajer, professor of Urban Futures at Utrecht University, was a guest on the television programme ‘Buitenhof’ on 6 October. With Dr Aimée Slangen (sea level researcher at NIOZ and main author of the 2021 IPCC report) and Jo-Annes de Bat (member of the Provincial Executive of Zeeland) he discussed 'The Netherlands after the sea level rise'.

Maarten Hajer in Buitenhof
Maarten Hajer on 'Buitenhof'

Recent publications paint an alarming picture of the climate of the future. Maarten Hajer also sees the other side of this. "The great thing about recent research is that we are now able to look far ahead into the future. We have never been able to do that. Thanks to the research by the IPCC and in the Netherlands by Deltares and the participating universities, we have the opportunity to anticipate what might happen."

Hajer sees the sketches for the future primarily as a way of deciding which strategies to follow on the basis of scientific knowledge. "We are not only dealing with rising sea levels, but also with land subsidence. The rise in sea level relative to the land is therefore twice as large, which makes us even more vulnerable. Fortunately, this issue is now well on the agenda. But we really need to link this knowledge to where we are going to build new houses. And we have to do that well in advance, about 75 years ahead."

Aimée Slangen, Jo-Annes de Bat and Maarten Hajer

In the programme, presenter Jort Kelder referred to the map of what the Netherlands might look like in 2300, sketched by physical geographer Dr Kim Cohen from Utrecht University for ‘Vrij Nederland’. According to Hajer, such a future scenario is "above all a reminder that, as a low-lying country, we are vulnerable to the consequences of climate change". And, said Hajer, "what I really don't understand is that we in the Netherlands are not at the forefront of CO2 reduction to prevent this scenario from becoming a reality".

He argues that we should draw a plan for the Netherlands in 2100, with different scenarios of what the Netherlands could look like, in which we tackle problems with agriculture, urbanisation and climate change together. "We need to create images that show people that the Netherlands can be a very well thought-out country. And not just seeing negative scenarios for the future."