Climate Risks for Infrastructure in Deltas Workshop

28 November - 2 December 2022

Venue: Lorentz Center@Snellius

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The exacerbating consequences of climate change require policymakers to continuously evaluate existing policies and strategies in order to avoid unacceptable risks for society. These evaluations could either lead to adapting current strategies to the changing environment, or to finding (institutional) instruments to better deal with such risks. Flood barriers, rail- and road embankments, subsurface pipe networks for water supply, and sewer and gas networks can be heavily affected by droughts and floods, sea-level changes, and atmospheric variability. It is particularly relevant to understand and address the risks to this so-called ‘critical infrastructure’, as it is vital for the functioning of society and for the protection of the environment. That is not an easy task for policymaking. Think of the challenge of dealing with subsidence in Bangkok, where the policy decision is whether or not to reduce the production of groundwater and/or whether to invest in protection of the subsiding land against the rising sea level. Or the question whether the ‘monster-infrastructure’ of the mobile barriers placed on the bottom of the Venetian lagoon for preventing the phenomenon of high-tide on Venice (the so-called M.O.S.E) is sufficient when sea level rise will increase.

Challenges of decision-making on climate risks for infrastructure in deltas are twofold. Firstly, a scientific challenge: i.e. it requires operationalizing risk assessment methods and translating their outputs into sustainable interventions, under various types of uncertainty. Secondly, a policy challenge: i.e. it requires anticipating implications of such interventions on a wide range of issues, varying from future human-technology interactions to social equity distributions and broad welfare, and incorporating new information into adaptation strategies. This workshop aims to address these two challenges by integrating an interdisciplinary perspective on climate risk assessment with the transdisciplinary practice of critical infrastructure design and management.

For better understanding of future risks and assessing future scenarios, we need to have a profound understanding of many issues, which requires a collaborative learning process that strengthens the generation of transdisciplinary knowledge. In this workshop, this transdisciplinary ambition will encompass the engineering sciences, the social sciences and the humanities and will include key stakeholders and policymakers active in the broad fields of climate adaptation and urban delta management. All participants will be engaged in a reasoned discussion on existing climate risk assessment methods and will be invited to identify rationale and limitations and address the operationalization of such methods for policy-making purposes.

The workshop will aim at jointly, with all participants, formulating which innovations would be needed for climate risk assessment methods (an agenda for “Policy-informed assessment tools for climate risks for infrastructures in Deltas”). The goal is to formulate a research agenda for these tools, which should bring them closer to the actual world of policymaking.

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Scientific organizers:

Femke Vossepoel, TU Delft   

Arthur Petersen, UCL   

Behnam Taebi, TU Delft  

Claudia Basta, Planbureau voor de Leefomgeving   

Jazmin Zatarain Salazar, TU Delft