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Red alert: German coasts on the brink of collapse

Summer 2050

This article is for all those who believe that they have nothing to do with the rising sea levels on the German coasts.

In this blog post, I will reveal to you …

  • Why you should visit Groningen soon
  • What you need to consider when buying real estate in Bremen
  • Why the seagulls in Büsum will no longer steal your crab sandwiches
  • Why residents on the Baltic Sea coast have hit the jackpot
  • How far inland the sea level rise really extends

At the end, you will find out why sea level is not the real problem and make a few suggestions as to what you can do personally.

All red

Basthorst, July 9, 2024, 28.6°C outside temperature.

A beautiful summer day with sun, clouds and blue sky.

Almost a little too warm.

The starlings in the garden are fighting over the last cherries.

I look tensely at my screen.

I select the year 2050, enter „Hamburg, Germany“ and press Return.

I look at the map.

Everything is red.

I can’t believe it.

I am shocked.

And sad.

And angry.

Rising sea levels pose a massive threat to us – in less than 25 years!

I am horrified.

Images from my childhood immediately come to mind.

Scary stories.

Of the first Marcellus Flood, which occurred on January 16, 1219 and was named after Saint Marcellus I, on whose memorial day it happened.

Would he have agreed to this?

The abbot of the Premonstratensian monastery near Groningen interpreted the Marcellus Flood and the subsequent famine as a deluge „because of our crimes“.

The rich marsh farmers had not thought of the poor. That is why they lost their land.

Between 36,000 and 50,000 people and countless animals died that night.

And of the Grote Mandränke – the second Marcellus Flood, which affected the entire German North Sea coast from East Frisia to North Frisia from January 15 to 17, 1362.

Tens of thousands of people and countless animals lost their lives.

In which Rungholt, the largest trading town at the time, was lost.

The formation of the Dollart, Leybucht and Jade Bay are also associated with this flood.

And the second Grote Mandränke – the Burchiardi flood, which devastated the North Sea coast between Ribe and Brunsbüttel on the night of October 11-12, 1634.

Between 8,000 and 15,000 people and countless animals fell victim to it.

And the flash flood in the Ahr valley on July 14 and 15, 2021.

Less than a week until the anniversary.

134 people were killed, two people are still missing and more than 750 people were injured.

Houses, streets, cars, gardens, toys – all gone.

Reconstruction in the Ahr valley is still stalling three years after the flood.

Is that something completely different?

True – and not true.

I can’t get these stories to stop running through my head.

We are prepared for this – right?

Okay, we’ve learned a lot in the meantime.

You would think so.

We build dykes.

We let sheep graze and keep muskrats at bay.

And we are reclaiming land from the sea.

Groynes and lahns calm the water and delay the flow of suspended particles carried by the water.

We do all this.

For generations.

Since the great storm surges.

But it reminds us of Sisyphus.

Eternally condemned as a punishment to roll a boulder up a mountain, which rolls back into the valley just before the summit every time.

We invest a lot in coastal protection.

Still.

It’s all a question of priorities.

Will you be affected?

I look at the map again.

Not everything is red.

But an unimaginable amount.

I don’t know if you’ll be affected.

It depends on where you live.

The entire marshland of the North Sea coast is directly affected.

The Ems and Weser marshes from Groningen to Cuxhaven.

The Elbe estuary and lower Elbe lowlands as far as Geesthacht.

The Schleswig-Holstein marshes from Dithmarschen to the border with Denmark.

And all the North Sea islands and Halligen in the German Bay.

A lot of red.

The German Baltic coast is a little better off.

The Schleswig-Holstein Baltic Sea from the Flensburg Fjord to the Bay of Lübeck.

The Mecklenburg-Vorpommern coastal area from Rosenhagen to the Greifswalder Bodden.

The north-east Mecklenburg lowlands with the Oderhaff area, the Oder along the German-Polish border as far as Eberswalde.

Red speckles everywhere.

Fortunately, much less red compared to the German North Sea coast.

Neighboring coasts of the Netherlands, Denmark and Poland are of course also severely affected.

The neighboring areas are not directly – but possibly indirectly – affected.

The Dümmer-Geestniederung and Ems-Hunte-Geest.

The East Frisian-Oldenburg Geest and the Weser-Aller lowlands behind it.

The Elbe valley lowlands behind Geesthacht and the adjacent Wendland and Altmark.

The Stade Geest and the adjoining Lüneburg Heath.

The Schleswig-Holstein Geest.

The Mecklenburg Lake District.

The hinterland of the Mecklenburg-Brandenburg Lake District.

And perhaps also the Mecklenburg-Brandenburg plateau and hill country.

These landscapes are not directly affected by rising sea levels.

But perhaps indirectly.

Where will the people and animals and all their belongings go if large parts of the North Sea and Baltic Sea coasts become permanently uninhabitable?

And who should and will help these climate refugees?

So much for the overview.

Are you ready to take a closer look?

Then I’ll take you with me.

On my own personal tour following the new coastline.

The Ems and Weser Marshes from the Dutch border to Cuxhaven

German Coast 2050 between Groningen, Bremen and Cuxhaven
German Coast 2050 between Groningen, Bremen and Cuxhaven

Let’s start the tour at the Dutch border.

Where Groningen used to be.

Huh?

We visited Groningen just a short time ago.

And were amazed and delighted.

The many canals.

The many bicycles.

The many friendly and welcoming people.

Not here anymore.

In fact, the future coastline of the North Sea is about 30 km further inland from Groningen, around Gasselternijveen.

The German coastline then begins in the district of Emsland.

Between Heede and Rehde on the Ems.

From there it leads further inland to Dörpen and then to Papenburg.

Because the Dollart has expanded considerably.

I don’t know whether the Papenburg shipyard will be happy about this – or can still be happy.

Will it still exist?

Westoverledingen has become a peninsula.

Perhaps.

Hard to say.

Because the whole area is moorland.

The coast continues from there along the northern edge of the Esterweger Dose to Hollen.

Perhaps you can then enjoy the view of the North Sea and good food at the Dockemeyer country inn.

The dyke possibly runs along Elisabethfehner Straße to Elisabethfehn Süd, then to Harkebrügge.

Then it continues to Lohhorst and from there to Edewecht.

But the intended line is interrupted time and again.

Through drainage ditches and canals that stretch deep into the land like a trench.

The Burlage-Langholter Tief as far as Neu-Burlage.

The Soeste river across the Glittenberger Moor to Kampe.

The Aue-Godensholter Tief as far as Edewecht.

No idea how the coastal conservationists will do this.

Straighten the coastline and eradicate marshes?

Or follow the line of the dyke along every bend?

From Edewecht, the route then heads north to Westerstede.

To the peninsula that remains between the Dollart and the Jade Bay.

Large parts of the Leer district will lie off the new coast.

The same applies to large parts of the districts of Aurich, Wittmund, Friesland and Ammerland.

Emden and Wilhelmshaven anyway.

From Edewecht, the route continues to Uplengen and Leer.

Leer is now a real coastal town on a very narrow peninsula with access via Hesel and Holtland.

Water – or alluvial land – to the left and right.

Aurich now also lies directly on the water.

The north-western coastal point of this peninsula is approximately at Eversmeer.

The Eternal Sea still lies behind the dyke.

Remarkable.

From Eversmeer, the coastline runs towards Dunum before another narrow stretch of land pushes the coastline back again.

This time it is the Falsterleide, which stretches all the way to Brill.

The NATO airbase is now also located directly behind the dyke.

The same goes for Ardorf and Leerhafe.

Wittmund, on the other hand, is probably in front of the dyke.

If it is still there.

Jever is a little higher up and will perhaps be an island.

Who knows.

I still remember a great bike tour in my youth.

We cycled a circular route between the Dollart and Jadebusen in one day.

Always rain from the front.

Horizontally.

And no matter which direction we rode in.

We were soaking wet.

And happy about it.

Unfortunately, Wilhelmshaven does not have this good fortune of an elevated position.

Another peninsula will be Schortens and the Jever air base with access via Reepsholt.

The coastline continues from Reepsholt via Bockhorn to the mill pond of Upstalboom Varel Dangast.

Varel itself now lies directly on the sea and is a peninsula with access via Bramloge.

The district of Wesermarsch, which extends to the east of Varel, is completely red.

It is therefore in front of the new coastline.

From Bramloge, the coast goes southwards to Oldenburg in the district of Oldenburg.

As Oldenburg lies on the River Hunte, large parts of Oldenburg will no longer be safe from flooding.

Goodbye Ikea Oldenburg.

It was great with you, Bümmerstedter Moor.

Assuming the coastal protection largely protects Oldenburg and the surrounding area.

Then the dyke line will run from Oldenburg via Hude and Delmenhorst to Stuhr and Brinkum before it reaches Bremen.

Or what could be saved from Bremen.

Parts of Bremen and Hemelingen will be spared.

The question is whether other parts can be saved.

Especially those parts that are influenced by the Wümme and Hamme rivers.

These form a red triangle to the north of Bremen’s city center, stretching between Lemwerder in the west, Karlshöfen in the north and Sagehorn in the east.

Bremen East, the University of Bremen and the municipalities of Ritterhude, Osterholz-Scharmbeck, Lilienthal and Worpswede in the district of Osterholz will be particularly affected.

The good news.

The towns of Oyten, Grasberg, Worpswede, Fünfhausen and Karlshöfen will be spared.

The same applies to the villages of Vollersode, Hambergen, Sandhausen, Osterholz-Scharmbek and Ritterhude, which lie on the B74 federal highway.

Bremen-Vegesack and Blumenthal are also safely located on a peninsula that stretches from Schwanewede to Beverstedt in the west.

From Beverstedt northwards, it is unclear how the new coastline will run.

This is where the Weser marshes meet the Stade Geest.

And the Geest then forms a new coastline that stretches like a slender finger towards Cuxhaven.

The district of Cuxhaven will be significantly affected by the rise in sea level.

The new coastline will run through the municipalities of Loxstedt, Schiffdorf, Hagen im Bremischen and Wurster Nordseeküste.

Bremerhaven will then also lie off the coast.

Places such as Cuxhaven, Nordholz, Neuenwalde, Sievern, Langen, Geestland, Elmlohe, Kührstedt and Alfstedt will probably be spared.

Let’s hope so.

And what about the East Frisian Islands?

All more or less ribbled at.

Interestingly, from the landward and not the seaward side.

Presumably because the body of water between the islands and the mainland stagnates for longer.

Borkum shrinks to about one third.

Lütje Hörn and the North Sea island of Memmert as well as Mellum and the island of Neuwerk with Nigelhörn and Scharhörn can probably no longer be saved.

Juist will also shrink to around a third.

The same applies to Norderney and Baltrum as well as Minsener Oog.

Langeoog, Spiekeroog and Wangerooge are even shrinking to a quarter of their current size.

The offshore island of Helgoland loses its dune, but remains largely intact.

If I compare the current coastline with the coastline forecast for 2050, it doesn’t look good from the Dutch border to Cuxhaven.

The new coastline will be at least five to 35 km further inland than the current dyke line, and in some cases even further.

Whether we like it or not.

Whether we can afford it or not.

I have not listed all the places that will lie in front of this new coastline.

What will happen to them and their inhabitants?

I do not know.

If you are one of them.

You have my sympathy.

And it cannot and should not be any consolation to us that our neighbors in the Netherlands will be even worse off.

On the contrary.

We will be dependent on each other.

Lower Elbe lowlands (Elbmarsch) from Cuxhaven to Hamburg

German coast 2050 between Bremerhaven, Hamburg and Heide (Holstein)
German coast 2050 between Bremerhaven, Hamburg and Heide (Holstein)

This also applies to the entire Elbe estuary as far as Hamburg and Geesthacht.

The red-colored area at the mouth of the Elbe extends from Cuxhaven to Kanalhütte.

And thus defines the new coastline.

From there to Lintig, Mittelstenahe via Bröckelbeck to the chalk lake Hemmoor.

Where we learned to dive.

Perhaps there will be a few new islands in the extended Elbe estuary.

Wanna and Westerwanna form one or two islands.

Stinstedt and the Wingst two more.

Above all, the influence of the Oste with its fine ramifications in the hinterland will claim a lot of land between Cuxhaven and Stade.

Its influence extends as far as Bremervörde.

From Hemmoor, the route continues via Ebersdorf, Bremervörde, Estorf and Oldendorf to Stade.

The district of Stade will also have a lot to do with the unnatural widening of the Elbe.

The municipalities of Balje, Krummendeich, Oederquart, Freiburg (Elbe), Wischhafen and Drochtersen will then lie in front of the future coastline.

These towns will probably be abandoned.

Due to the course of the Oste, the municipalities of Großenwörden, Engelschoff, Burgweg, Kranenburg and Estorf will also be affected.

The town of Stade is now located directly on the Elbe dyke.

And looks onto the island of Bützfleth.

From Stade, the dyke follows the B73 federal highway via Dollern, Horneburg, Buxtehude, Neu Wulmsdorf, Fischbek and Neugraben to Hamburg-Harburg.

The areas to the north of the B73 federal highway will then lie in front of the new dyke line.

This mainly affects the municipalities of Hollern-Twielenfleth, Steinkirchen, Gudehandviertel, Grünendeich, Mittelkirchen, Neuenkirchen and Jork as well as Neuenfelde, Francop, Altenwerder and Moorburg.

And sections of highway A26.

The Airbus plant in Finkenwerder is also located on the future coastline.

Will it be saved?

In any case, the plant would then probably be part of an island.

Hamburg – my pearl

My city Hamburg.

I was born here.

I lived here for the first 43 years of my life.

Hamburg is wealthy.

Well positioned.

But it has an Achilles heel.

The entire area to the south and south-east of Hamburg’s city center is still at risk.

This primarily affects the districts of Wilhelmsburg and the entire district of Hamburg-Bergedorf.

And the communities of Bullenhausen, Over, Rosenweide, Fliegenberg, Hoopte, Stöckte and Drage, which belong to the district of Harburg.

Are simply too low overall.

We learned a bitter lesson here back in 1962.

In the districts of Neuenfelde, Finkenwerder and Wilhelmsburg, several dykes burst in the night of February 16-17, 1962.

315 people died that night.

Since then, Hamburg has consistently invested in flood protection.

At least on the north bank of the Elbe.

To avoid getting our feet wet, we continue our tour from Hamburg-Harburg via Meckelfeld, Stelle, Winsen (Luhe) up the main road 404 to Drage and over the Elbe to Geesthacht.

Geesthacht, on the north bank of the Elbe, is not a place to expect wet feet.

From Geesthacht we cycle along the new shoreline, following the B5 federal highway.

Via Bergedorf to Hamburg city center.

Nevertheless.

There are red spots here too.

Rothenburgsort, Hammerbrook, the Speicherstadt and Hafencity.

There are apartments for sale there for several million euros.

And spiders that feel right at home there.

And the Elbphilharmonie concert hall.

Fleetinsel, Vorsetzen, Baumwall and Hamburg City Hall are also at risk.

And the Landungsbrücken.

Of course.

It’s a harbor area.

And walks directly along the Elbe will also become more complicated.

The Strandperle will be in the water.

So take the opportunity now for long walks from the Elbe bridges to Blankenese or even further to Wittenbergen.

But to be honest, these are just little things.

Overall, everything is largely safe on the north bank – from the city center to Wedel.

From Wedel to Brunsbüttelkoog

There are real changes to the future coastline down the Elbe from Wedel (Holstein).

From here, the new coastline runs via Holm, Uetersen, Elmshorn and Horst to Hohenfelde before continuing inland to Brokstedt and Fritzbek.

The reason for this indentation is once again a river.

This time the Stör and its sphere of influence.

The municipalities of Hetlingen, Haselau, Neuendeich, Seestermühe, Seester and Raa-Besenbek, Amt Wilstermarsch, Glückstadt, and large parts of the offices of Kellinghusen and Krempermarsch will lie in front of the new shoreline.

Sorry.

From Fritzbek it goes via Hohenlockstedt and Oelixdorf to Itzehoe.

Breitenburg and some of the surrounding area will become an island at the gates of Itzehoe.

The Bekau will create another marsh to the west of Itzehoe, reaching as far as Drage.

A different Drage to the one near Geesthacht.

In the true north, we are a little sparing with innovative place names.

Better to fall back on the tried and tested.

We follow the new coastline from Itzehoe via Drage to Kleve.

From there to Wacken – Metal fans know it.

Instead of wading through the mud, in future festival guests will be able to wade through the mud and then swim in the Elbe.

Great, isn’t it?

From Wacken, the route continues to the Hohenhörn canal ferry.

The Kiel Canal would then also be able to flow along this route in its originally intended canal bed.

It will be exciting to see what will happen on the 25 km or so of canal that will now lie in front of the new coastline.

And where the locks will be.

It’s good that we have phased out nuclear power.

And that the Brokdorf nuclear power plant was finally shut down at the end of 2021.

The Krümmel nuclear power plant in mid-2009 and Stade at the end of 2003.

So the dismantling of these plants on the Elbe is certainly progressing well and according to plan.

There is still some time until 2050.

It would just be a shame if these ruins were then standing in the Elbe.

Not only because of the shipping traffic.

Schleswig-Holstein marshes

German coast 2050 between Heide (Holstein) and Sylt
German coast 2050 between Heide (Holstein) and Sylt

The district of Dithmarschen is particularly hard hit.

Brunsbüttel is now 25 km from the new coastline.

Amt Marne-Nordsee has effectively become part of the North Sea.

The same applies to Wesselburen.

Including Büsum, the harbor and delicious crab rolls.

The communities to the west of Meldorf and Heide will also lie off the coast.

Sankt Michaelisdonn, Meldorf and Heide will then become real coastal towns.

Just like Büsum was back then.

The Eidersperrwerk now stands in the middle of the sea.

Around 20 km off the coast.

The influence of the Eider is enormous and cuts deep into the hinterland.

It cuts a 6-10 km wide swathe across the Schleswig-Flensburg and Rendsburg-Eckernförde districts.

Its northernmost spur reaches as far as Treia and in the south down to the Kiel Canal, which it will affect between Steenfeld and Schülp near Rendsburg.

In other words.

All the beloved vacation resorts and estates southwest of Husum down to Heide lie off the coast.

Plus the effects of the Eider.

Nordstrand is completely red.

Husum and Hattstedt themselves will probably get off lightly.

But.

From Hattstedt northwards to the Danish border, a red band around 8-20 km deep runs along today’s coast.

The new coastline now runs from Hattstedt via Arlewatt, Drelsdorf, Bredtstedt, Lütjenholm and Leck to Süderlügum.

The future coastline is expected to meet the Danish border at the village of Ellhöft.

Roughly a third of the land area in the district of Nordfriesland will be lost.

And this is just the mainland.

The North Frisian Islands and Halligen

The North Frisian Islands will fight for their survival.

Pellworm red.

The island of my childhood and youth.

So many wonderful memories and legendary encounters.

So many sole, crabs and mullets.

Wild New Year’s Eve pranks.

I have dear friends there and it pains me to write this.

Föhr is losing the entire north to the sea.

And is shrinking to a quarter of the original island area.

I tried my first olives in Wyk on Föhr – and then didn’t eat any for a long time.

Amrum is probably in a better position.

It has only lost a thin strip on the northern and eastern shores and a little in the northwest.

So it remains almost completely intact.

All ten Halligen are red.

A tragedy.

They will probably be abandoned and will then form elevations in the Wadden Sea.

Like Rungholt once was.

I am listing them here so that they will be remembered.

Nordstrandischmoor with its trolley railway connection to the mainland.

23 inhabitants and four dwelling mounds.

Hallig Hooge.

Currently 116 residents.

One school and one kindergarten.

Eleven mounds.

Often visited in my childhood.

A wonderful place when the weather is nice.

Hallig Norderoog.

Not permanently inhabited by people.

The original mound was destroyed and not rebuilt.

Also known as „Vogelhallig“ (Birds Hallig).

At times there are more than 50,000 birds on the small Hallig.

A real bird paradise.

Hallig Süderoog.

The southernmost of the North Frisian Halligen.

Four inhabitants.

One mound.

Nele and Holger run an organic farm.

Hallig Südfall.

Only inhabited in summer.

A mound with a house and stable building.

Located near the sunken village of Rungholt.

Hamburg Hallig.

With a road connection to the mainland.

Three mounds, two of which are uninhabited.

Popular excursion destination with mudflat workshop, bathing area and rustic restaurant.

Hallig Habel.

The smallest of the Hallig islands.

Visitors are not welcome.

One mound.

A bird warden.

Lots of birds.

Nothing else.

Hallig Gröde.

Third largest Hallig.

11 inhabitants.

Two mounds, one of which is uninhabited.

Hallig church with Germany’s smallest parish.

And a Hallig kiosk.

Just what you need.

Hallig Oland.

Connected to the mainland by a trolley railway.

And also connected to Langeneß via a trolley railway.

24 inhabitants.

One mound.

Hallig Langeneß.

Connected to Hallig Oland via a trolley railway.

The largest Hallig.

121 inhabitants live here.

18 mounds.

Two hotels, two restaurants, three cafés, school and kindergarten, farm store, nursing station and volunteer fire department.

Wow.

My heart bleeds.

The thought that this world will no longer be here.

That all the lovely people, islanders and tourists alike, will no longer be here.

That the many sheep and countless birds will no longer be able to graze or breed there.

Sylt.

Always something special.

The battle for land and sand has always been a question of survival for Sylt.

The rising sea level will make it difficult for Sylt’s inhabitants to keep pace, especially on the inland side of the island.

The Rantum basin, Tinnum and Archsum in particular will have to struggle due to the currents.

And the already very thin southern island between Rantum and Hörnum.

The north of Sylt, at Ellenbogen and near List are also particularly at risk from rising sea levels.

And the Hindenburgdamm.

I wonder whether this railroad embankment between the island of Sylt and the mainland will still be economically viable in 2050.

Especially as the mainland will have retreated several kilometers from the North Sea.

And Niebüll will now be part of the North Sea.

We will see.

The German Baltic Sea coast from Flensburg to the Szczecin Lagoon

German coast 2050 between Flensburg and Scharbeutz
German coast 2050 between Flensburg and Scharbeutz

Okay, the worst is behind us.

I promise.

In contrast to the dramatic events on the North Sea coast, the residents of the German Baltic Sea coast really have it much better.

In fact, no permanent changes to long stretches of coastline are to be expected as a result of rising sea levels.

Only more or less selective disruptions.

I will therefore jump directly to the affected sections.

I will leave out minimal red spots and stripes.

The sea is constantly working against the coasts.

There are very few red spots in the Flensburg Fjord.

These include the Holnis peninsula, the shore near Westerholz, Habernis, Ohrfeldhaff, the shore between Gelting Mole marina and Wackerballig as well as the Geltinger Birk nature reserve.

South of Geltinger Birk, the Ostseesonne campsite and Kronsgaard Strand are affected.

There are also only a few endangered spots along the Schlei.

These include Maasholm at the mouth of the Schlei, Arnis, Ulsnisstrand, Groß Brodersby, the Reesholm nature reserve, the Füsinger Au, various shore areas in Schleswig, the shore section from Gottorf via Haitabu (Viking Museum) to Selk, the shore between Stexwig and Borgwedel, the shore from Louisenlund to Weseby, Ornumer Noor and the shores near Büstorf, Winnemark and Schärfeck.

Many areas.

But not really very dramatic.

Because mostly uninhabited.

On the Schlei estuary, Olpenitz and further south Schönhagen, the Schwansener See nature reserve, Schubystrand and the shore near Damp are particularly affected by a rise in sea level.

In Eckernförde Bay, only the shores near Eickholt, Sandkrug and Aschau are affected.

And in the Kiel Fjord, the shore at Bülk lighthouse, an industrial area near Ellerbek and the shore near Heikendorf are at risk.

These are all predominantly uninhabited areas.

We expect a major incision in the coastline on the shore between Stein and Schönberger Strand.

Here, the coastline threatens to recede over a large area right up to the B502 federal highway.

This will primarily affect the villages of Heidekate, California and Brazil and, in part, Schönberger Strand.

Further south, the shores north and south of Hohwacht are affected.

Because of the small and large inland lakes and the Sehlendorf inland lake, which are centered on Hohwacht.

Heiligenhafen with its famous Graswarder will also be at risk.

It is also a place that I associate above all with good encounters, inspiring conversations and wonderful days and evenings.

On the island of Fehrmarn, it is mainly the western and northern shores that are affected by rising sea levels.

The campsites in Süssau and especially Stieglitz near Dahme will also have to struggle.

The latter will also be affected by the Oldenburger Graben, the effects of which will reach as far as Oldenburg in Holstein.

Sections of the shore near Klosterseeschleuse and Pelzerhaken are also at risk.

In Neustadt in Hollstein, the meadows between Neustädter Binnenwasser and the A1 highway are particularly affected.

Also uninhabited.

Timmendorfer Strand will be at risk of flooding between the B76 federal highway and Hemmelsdorfer See.

The Trave and Lübeck will largely be spared the impact of rising sea levels.

With a few exceptions.

Namely the bank between Teerhof and Dänischburg, the bank of the Trave between Lübeck’s old town and Recke, the Elbe-Lübeck Canal between Lübeck and Bornmühle, the bank between the Schellbruch nature reserve and Gothmund Old Harbour, Dassow with the Stegnitz and finally the Priwall.

An interim conclusion.

The Baltic coast of Schleswig-Holstein is and will remain beautiful.

And above all, it has been largely spared a rise in sea level.

Most of the affected shore sections are uninhabited.

And therefore pose no immediate danger to life and limb.

In no way comparable to the risks on the North Sea coast.

German coast 2050 between Hohwacht and Stralsund
German coast 2050 between Hohwacht and Stralsund

The Baltic coast of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern begins to the west of Travemünde.

The coast of northwest Mecklenburg also has only a few affected areas.

The hinterland of the Rosenhagen beach, the Klützer Bach near Boltenhagen, the Tarnewitzer Huk nature reserve, the shore near Wohlenhagen, the beach and hinterland near Zierow, the Fliemstorf Huk.

In Wismar, the western shore, the old harbor and the shore north of the timber harbor are endangered.

The old harbor.

We spent some very pleasant hours here.

With fish sandwiches and delicious original soft ice cream.

Then the shores at Redentin and Hof Redentin as well as the shore areas of the bridge to the island of Poel at Gross Strömkendorf.

On the island of Poel, the campsite Leuchtturm, Brandenhusen, the shore at Am Schwarzer Busch, the eastern shore and the adjacent island of Langenwerder are affected.

In addition, the Faule Bach and the shore near Damekow as well as the southern shore of Rustwerder.

In many cases, shoreline areas that are uninhabited.

And often only minor impairments are to be expected.

Similar predictions can be made for the coast in the district of Rostock, including the Hanseatic city of Rostock.

Comparatively few disturbances.

For example, on the Salzhaff shore between Klein Strömkendorf and Rerik, in the Wustrow peninsula nature reserve with Kieler Ort, Riedensee near Kühlungsborn and on Conventer See between Heiligendamm and Börgerende-Rethwisch.

In Rostock, the shipping museum at the IGA Park, Gehlsdorf, Peezer Bach and Schnatermann are among the endangered areas.

The Warnow River, which stretches as far as Bützow, is also likely to widen its banks.

In the Rostock Heath, the Markgrafenheide campsite and the shores of Heiligensee and Hütelmoor are affected by rising sea levels.

The coast of the district of Vorpommern-Rügen, on the other hand, is probably more at risk than coastal areas to the west of it.

On the one hand, this is probably due to its highly indented coastline with many bays, lagoons and peninsulas.

Secondly, probably because the coast of Vorpommern-Rügen is more exposed to the open Baltic Sea.

In particular the north and north-easterly winds, which push the water towards the coast.

The Bodden also begin here.

Very shallow coastal waters, which are typically separated from the open sea by islands and peninsulas and form lagoons.

Taken together, these factors increase the risk of higher water levels.

On the Saaler Bodden, Dierhagen, Wustrow, Ahrenshoop, Saal and Ribnitz are affected.

The river Recknitz, which is part of an extensive water system, also flows through Riebnitz.

It meets the Peene via the Trebel and Trebel Canal, which in turn flows into the Szczecin Lagoon near Anklam – and on the other hand leads inland to Lake Kummerow near Demmin and on to Lake Malchin.

This water system cuts through Vorpommern from Riebnitz to Anklamm and is also affected by rising sea levels.

Even if it lies far from the Baltic coast.

It will extend to a 2-3 km wide band.

On the Bodstedt Bodden, Born auf dem Darß, Wieck auf dem Darß, Prerow, Bresewitz, Fulendorf and Michaelsdorf will have to deal with rising sea levels.

The situation will be even more tense on the Barther Bodden.

In the north of the Barther Bodden, Zingst, Sundische Wiese and Hohe Düne (Ostzingst) as well as the islands of Grosser Kirr, Ole, Großer Werder and Bock are at risk.

On the southern side, Barth, Dabitz, Zühlendorf, Nisdorf, Kinnbackenhagen and the shore near Wendisch Langendorf are affected, as well as Pruchten with the Barthe River, which stretches along the Strahlsund-Barth Baltic Sea Airport to Löbnitz.

The shore near Klausdorf between Barhöft and Prohn will also be affected by rising sea levels.

The exhibitions at the Ozeanum in Stralsund will probably provide even more information about the climate crisis and its diverse effects on the seas and coasts of the world at this time.

German Coast 2050 between Rostock and Heringsdorf
German Coast 2050 between Rostock and Heringsdorf

Let’s move on to the largest island in Germany.

Rügen.

Famous for its chalk cliffs in the Jasmund National Park, Cape Arkona, the Sellin pier and many other sights.

Rügen gets off relatively lightly.

The offshore island of Hiddensee and the west coast of Rügen are particularly affected.

The shore between Schaprode and Teschvitz, the island of Ummanz and the sections of shore near Gurtitz, between Lieschow and Landow, near Dusvitz and between Bessin and Liebitz.

There are also other isolated stretches of red shore on Rügen.

For example, the shore near Wiek on the Wittow peninsula.

On the Jasemund peninsula, the shore areas near Rappin, near Jägersruh and between Roter See near Glowe and Borchitz.

On the Mönchgut peninsula, Lake Selon, Lake Neuensien, the Mönchgut salt marshes and the Mönchgut nature reserve.

On the coast of the Vorpommern-Greifswald district, the shores between Stahlbrode and Gristow, near Mesekenhagen and Neuenkirchen and the islands of Riems and Koos are particularly at risk.

In addition, the banks near Kemnitz and the town of Greifswald with the River Ryck, whose distinctive water system will have an impact as far as Wüst Eldena.

Greifswald also gives me hope.

Because of the Wendelstein 7-X.

This is an experimental fusion reactor.

Almost limitless energy is within reach.

There is still a long way to go.

But the researchers are making good progress.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

The German Baltic Sea coast ends in the east with the Oder Lagoon.

Also known as the Szczecin Lagoon.

The coastal section of Freesendorf, east of Lubmin, is at risk here.

In the direct vicinity of the Greifswald nuclear power plant.

Near the waste disposal plant for nuclear facilities.

Where the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline ended.

Before it was sabotaged by unknown persons in September 2022.

There are only around twenty kilometers between old and new energy technology.

On the island of Usedom, a large area between Peenemünde and Krummin and the shores of the Achterwasser between Lütow and Warthe, between Stolpe on Usedom and Kamincke and the shore near Usedom (Ort) are at risk.

On the mainland side off Usedom, sections of the shore between Freest and Wolgast, near Hohendorf and south of Wolgast to Anklam will be affected by a rise in sea level.

This mainly affects the mouth of the Peene, the Peene valley and Peenehaff, which will probably become noticeably wider.

To the south of Anklam, further sections of the riverbank up to the German-Polish border will be affected.

The bank from Anklam to Ueckermünde with the river Uecker, the bank near Warsin, the Altwarp inland dunes, the Neuwarper See and the Riether Werder.

The Oder Valley

German coast 2050 Oder Valley with Szczecin (Poland), Gartz and Schwedt to Eberswalde
German coast 2050 Oder Valley with Szczecin (Poland), Gartz and Schwedt to Eberswalde

The rise in sea level will also extend far up the Oder.

The Oder flows into the Oder Lagoon on the Polish side.

As a result, Polish residents will be particularly affected by more frequent flooding on the lower reaches of the Oder.

Our solidarity is needed here.

As the Oder forms part of the German-Polish border, we will also feel the effects of rising sea levels.

The Oder Valley will be a red band around 2-4 km wide in this area.

This applies to the entire stretch between Gartz (Oder) and Lunow-Stolzenhagen.

In the estuary area on the Polish side, this band will grow to a width of around 10-12 km.

And the effects will reach as far as Eberswalde.

The boat lifts near Niederfinow are the southernmost red area in the Oder region that is at risk.

Around ten kilometers away from the University for Sustainable Development.

Where our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will hopefully learn how to do things better.

I’ll be 80 years old in 2050.

How old will you be then?

How old are your loved ones?

Your children and grandchildren?

Rising sea levels are not the problem – they are a symptom!

The best time to prepare for rising sea levels on the North Sea and Baltic coasts was fifty years ago.

The second best time is now.

No question about it.

And we are already doing a lot for coastal protection.

But will this be enough?

However, we should be aware of one thing.

We should not confuse causes with effects.

In reality, rising sea levels are a symptom of deeper problems.

In particular, the man-made climate crisis.

Our greed for fossil fuels.

Our ongoing deforestation and destruction of vital ecosystems.

So that we can eat burgers.

Our global division of labor.

With its blatant social injustices.

With man-made trading systems that make very few people richer and richer while more and more people will have much less.

I’ll stop already.

Even if there is more to say.

Fighting sea level rise is like painting a house on fire.

So that it looks nice.

We’d better fight the fire before it’s too late.

But things can turn out very differently – can’t they?

If you’ve read this far, you’re my hero.

You have really strong nerves.

Chapeau!

Maybe you think this is just a story, a tale.

In some abstract future.

Science fiction.

I’m a fan of good science fiction.

Unfortunately, I have to disappoint you.

This story is more science faction.

Never heard of it?

Science faction is a mixture of science fiction with today’s recognized scientific findings.

Of course, I don’t know whether the numerous consequences will materialize exactly as I have described them here.

In this respect, I exclude any liability.

But – it is rather unlikely that we will get off more lightly than described here.

Why?

I have chosen a model that is rather conservative.

You can find it at: coastal.climatecentral.org.

I used the following parameters for my modeling.

Projection type: sea level rise and annual flooding.

So the local sea level projection.

Plus the additional height of a local annual flood.

Statistically, an annual flood is expected to occur once a year.

This means that in some years there may be several incidents, in others none.

Pollution pathway or sea level scenario: current course.

This describes the amount of heat-trapping pollution that is added to the atmosphere.

Put simply, a higher sea level corresponds to a higher level of pollution.

The map shows the sea level rise at the local level, which differs slightly from the average of the individual global scenarios.

I have chosen „current trajectory“ here.

This means that global emissions of heat-trapping pollutants will continue to rise, with annual emissions roughly doubling by the end of the century.

That was the default setting.

But it also seems plausible to me.

This path is in line with current operational climate policy.

It is likely to lead to a warming of around 3.6° Celsius (around 6.5° Fahrenheit) compared to pre-industrial levels by 2100.

Technical designation: SSP3-7.0.

Happiness: Medium.

Given all the consequences of human activity that I have observed over the last 55 years, my choice is overly optimistic.

Good luck means that heat-inducing pollution and global warming will have less of an impact on sea levels than scientists generally expect.

Bad luck is the opposite.

Medium means an average result from the sea level projection range (50th percentile).

Again, I used the default setting.

I just didn’t want to find out what bad luck means.

Maybe you have the courage to do so.

Areas to be designated as threatened: Areas isolated by higher land are excluded.

This excludes areas potentially protected by dams, natural elevations or other features.

With the exception of those that are large enough to be covered by elevation data.

There are just a few more or less islands.

Source of sea level projection: IPCC 2021 leading consensus.

You can choose between different scientific studies or reports as the source for sea level projections.

I have also selected the default settings here.

Leading consensus (IPCC 2021) means that a sea level projection of the IPCC is used, which is based only on factors that are known with „medium confidence“ or better.

You can try out the model yourself.

With your favorite locations.

With my parameters – or your own.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Climate Central.

It’s good that you exist!

It’s good that you provide such clear tools!

What you can do – today and in the future

Perhaps you are now wondering what you can do.

Given the sheer size and complexity of the crisis.

A legitimate question.

In my experience, it helps to focus.

On the causes of the problem.

If you start here – together with others – you have, we have, the most efficient lever.

At the beginning of the causal network – at the end of which, among other things, is the rise in sea levels – are our human activities.

In particular, all activities that lead to CO2 emissions.

Unfortunately, these continue to rise unchecked.

Despite the Paris Climate Agreement.

1,337 tons.

Every second.

Global CO2 emissions reached 38.0 billion tons in 2021.

The G20 countries were responsible for 81% of these emissions.

Only twenty countries – including Germany.

Out of a total of 195 countries according to the United Nations‘ current reading.

So once again.

10 percent of all countries produce more than 80 percent of all global CO2 emissions.

That is more than Vilfredo Pareto would have predicted.

And by what right?

First aid

And you and I can do a lot here.

And other people together with us.

In the words of Eckart von Hirschhausen:

„The most important thing an individual can do now is not to remain an individual.“

I will show you various fields and opportunities to become active yourself.

Right away.

What you do with them is up to you.

Your responsibility.

With consequences for the future.

One way or another.

But every step, however small, improves our situation a little.

… at home and in your immediate environment

Invest in energy-efficient household appliances and use energy-saving modes.

Optimize your heating.

Set the thermostats sensibly.

Insulate your home well.

Switch off appliances completely when they are not in use.

Replace light bulbs with LEDs and use natural light sources.

And leave energy guzzlers – no matter which ones – in the store.

Install water-saving shower heads and taps.

Use less hot water.

Collect rainwater for watering the garden.

Reduce shower times and avoid unnecessary water consumption.

Solidarize with small and local businesses that promote ethical and sustainable practices.

Avoid companies that act unethically.

Shop locally, regionally and seasonally.

Visit farmers markets and organic farms in your neighborhood.

Realize the true value of real food.

Reduce your consumption of meat and animal products in favor of a plant-based diet.

Use reusable containers, bottles and shopping bags.

Use public transport, cycle or walk wherever possible.

Share rides with others or use car sharing services.

Consider switching to an electric car or hybrid vehicle if you need a car.

Switch to a green energy provider.

Install photovoltaics on your roof.

Or on your balcony.

Buy second-hand products and clothes.

Or buy clothes made from sustainable materials and from ethical manufacturers.

Avoid fast fashion.

Organize swap meets and use sharing offers.

Separate your waste correctly and use recycling options.

Compost organic waste.

Repair broken items and use reconditioned second-hand products.

Inform your family and friends about climate protection measures and motivate them to take action themselves.

Live in an environmentally conscious and sustainable way to set a good example for others.

And don’t try to become a saint.

Respect your own possibilities.

And your limits.

We are all only human.

And if you really want to know what else is possible:

Avoid flights – whether for work or on vacation.

Switch to an ecologically and socially oriented bank, such as GLS Bank or Umweltbank.

Save data.

This means: reduce your streaming, internet, online and social media activities to a minimum.

Avoid AI requests.

Avoid Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Because they produce more CO2 emissions than you can imagine.

Support environmental and climate protection organizations financially or on a voluntary basis.

… in your communities

Participate in or initiate local citizen initiatives.

Support local farmers‘ markets, artisans and stores to reduce the carbon footprint of transportation.

Organize workshops or lectures in your community on topics such as climate change, sustainable living or renewable energy.

Organize tool sharing or workshops in your neighbourhood.

Allow neighbors and other people to harvest fruit and vegetables from your property if you cannot or do not want to harvest them yourself.

Initiate or support a community garden or flower meadow.

Organize or participate in tree planting campaigns.

Plan regular waste collection campaigns.

Promote the use of energy-efficient appliances and LED lighting in your community.

Encourage the installation of solar panels on communal buildings.

Spread tips on saving water.

Such as using rainwater for the garden or water-saving shower heads and toilet flushes.

Organize neighbourhood car pools or even a community bus.

Offer to visit or shop for neighbors in need.

Campaign for the expansion of cycle paths and secure bicycle parking spaces in your community.

Organize bike tours or community outings in the countryside.

Organize a flea market or swap meet for clothes, books or household items.

… at work

Talk to management, executives and colleagues about your business model.

How you can develop it together in a sustainable and future-proof way.

How you can make your professional activities regenerative.

How you can reverse any environmental damage caused by your business.

Or how you can go beyond the legal minimum and work towards more climate protection, CO2 avoidance and social justice.

Simply because your company can afford it.

Use natural light sources wherever possible and switch off the lights when you don’t need them.

Replace conventional light bulbs with energy-efficient LEDs.

Switch off electronic devices and computers after use or use energy-saving modes.

Unplug devices that are not in use to avoid standby losses.

Adjust temperature controls sensibly and avoid excessive heating or air conditioning.

Reduce paper consumption through digital documents and communication.

Use double-sided printing and recycled paper.

Ensure waste is correctly separated and recycled.

Install recycling stations for paper, plastic, glass and metal.

Use reusable containers, cutlery and crockery instead of disposable products.

Organize carpools with colleagues to reduce commuting.

Use public transportation or a bicycle to get to work.

Promote home office days or flexible working models to reduce commuting.

Offer sustainable and regional food in the canteen or at events.

Organize workshops or training on climate protection and sustainability for your colleagues.

Share information and resources about sustainable practices and successes within the company.

Work to ensure that your company defines and pursues clear sustainability goals.

Advocate for investment in energy-efficient technologies and renewable energy.

Get involved in company-wide climate protection projects or propose your own initiatives.

Organize or participate in volunteer activities, such as tree planting campaigns or community clean-ups.

… in public

Make it public that you care about our coasts.

And about our future.

That you don’t agree with „business as usual“.

Give climate protection and sustainability a face.

And your voice.

Take part in protests and demonstrations that campaign for more climate protection and social justice.

Or take part in petitions and citizens‘ petitions and show your commitment locally at your place of residence or workplace.

Contribute to positive lobbying.

Influence politicians and decision-makers through personal conversations, letters or campaigns.

Find and mobilize fellow campaigners in your neighbourhood.

Use legal options.

The Backsen family, organic farmers on Pellworm, together with Greenpeace and the Blohm and Lüdke-Schwienhorst families, have successfully taken legal action against the German government.

For the right to climate protection.

And won.

Show civil disobedience wherever possible.

And always remain non-violent!

… in politics

Exercise your right to vote.

Go and vote.

Use your voice as a citizen in every election.

To preserve – and promote – democracy.

Or run for office.

Whether in your municipality, your district or at federal level.

Join a party that is committed to fundamental democratic values.

And actively defends them.

Get involved in local politics.

Work together with elected politicians.

They also need support and backing.

A word at the end

Forgiveness.

There are no heroes.

Nor is there a trick that will make everything go back to the way it was.

No technology will bring us salvation.

And there are no guilty parties.

We are all both heroes and culprits in this drama.

Because in a crazy system, it is very difficult to act wisely.

A first step can be to forgive ourselves and our fellow human beings.

We have to learn to forgive each other.

Otherwise we won’t get anywhere.

So reach out to each other.

No matter what happens.

There really is a lot at stake.

And now?

How are you feeling right now?

Overwhelmed?

Stunned?

Sad?

Angry?

Resigned?

I can empathize with all these feelings.

I’ve been through it all myself.

And managed to take action.

How can you take action yourself?

Stay on the ball and sign up for our newsletter.

Learn the language of sustainability and use our Wiki.

Visit The Week with us and exchange ideas with others.

Book a coaching session with us if you need personal sparring.

Do you want to make your company sustainable and fit for the future? We would be happy to support you. Book a free consultation with us.

Sources

  • Climate Central (2024): Coastal Risk Screening Tool. https://coastal.climatecentral.org/. Last accessed on 09.07.2024.
  • IPCC (2021). Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, A. Pirani, S. L. Connors, C. Péan, S. Berger, N. Caud, Y. Chen, L. Goldfarb, M. I. Gomis, M. Huang, K. Leitzell, E. Lonnoy, J. B. R. Matthews, T. K. Maycock, T. Waterfield, O. Yelekçi, R. Yu and B. Zhou (eds.)). Cambridge University Press.
  • Source for local flood height increments outside the contiguous US: Dullaart, J.C.M., Muis, S., Bloemendaal, N. et al. Accounting for tropical cyclones more than doubles the global population exposed to low-probability coastal flooding. Commun Earth Environ 2, 135 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-021-00204-9. Last accessed on 09.07.2024.

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