The global climate is changing, in fact, it’s really heating up over here. 🥵 Melting ice caps, natural disasters and rising sea levels — what does all of this mean for the Netherlands?
One thing is for certain, the lowlands are, well, low. Dutch coasts will notice the effects of rising sea levels sooner rather than later considering that almost the entire country is situated below sea level.
But what other effects will climate change have on the low-lying Netherlands? Here are just some of them.
Temperature rise in the Netherlands 🌡
Did you notice how very little snow there was this year? And how warm March was this year? These are the first felt effects of global warming on the Netherlands.
According to the official Dutch government website, temperatures have risen by 0.8 degrees Celcius worldwide since 1900, but that rise is estimated at 1.7 degrees in the Netherlands. That is twice as fast as the world’s average temperature rise.
Okay, that sounds scary but there’s good news too! While the heatwave may have been very devastating in some other parts of the world, the Netherlands is well prepared. The Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) has prepared a so-called National Heat Plans.
The National Heat Plans are called into action when it gets unusually warm in some areas of the Netherlands. They warn people to stay hydrated, wear thin clothing, try as much as possible to stay in the shade and apply sunscreen regularly.
Rainfall in the Netherlands 💧
However, overall, rainfall has (unbelievably) been decreasing since the 2000s. Instead, rain showers come down harder with greater intensity.
And why does that matter for the Netherlands? Well, for one, it puts Dutch cities at a greater risk of flooding if there is a lot of rain coming down at once. We’ve seen that, especially last year when the southern region of Limburg experienced terrible damage after heavy rainfall.
It also makes the Dutch coast erode quicker, and causes the many Dutch canals and waterways to overflow.
Sea level rise in the Netherlands 🌊
For a country situated below sea level, the Netherlands does a pretty good job of keeping the sea at bay. The Dutch are experts at water management — building dams, sand motors and redirecting water flows so the Netherlands stays afloat despite the ever-rising sea.
According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 29% of the Netherlands is at risk of river flooding. In total, 55% of the country is at risk of being submerged underwater at one point in the future.
The report concludes that overall, the Netherlands should be considered sensitive to flooding because of climate change. However, on the upside, the country is equipped to handle approximately two or three metres of rising sea levels for the time being.
Water pumps, dykes and expert water management strategies combined with the relative wealth of the Netherlands give reason to relax just a little. At least for now.
Health Issues 😷
Climate change also affects public health. According to the RIVM, persistent hot weather brings health risks to vulnerable groups like the elderly, people in care institutions and children. Here are just some of these risks:
- Poorer air quality can lead to respiratory diseases.
- Warmer climates increase pollen flight and, thus, allergy symptoms.
- Certain infectious diseases such as Lyme disease or West Nile Fever are more likely to spread.
- Increased exposure to UV rays increases skin cancer risks.
Are there risks? ⚠️
Actually, you could say that the weather in the Netherlands has become more extreme, and there are no signs of things getting better in the future. With temperatures increasing in the Netherlands, there will be more heavy showers and extended heat waves in the summer.
In general, the weather will become more extreme. Already now in 2022, we’ve seen several severe storms sweeping across the lowlands. Remember the terrible-triple — Corrie, Dudley and Eunice? Oh, and Franklin. 🌪
Some effects of the flooding and storms over these past few months were truly devastating. Loss of biodiversity, the costs of rebuilding infrastructure and some people even lost their lives.
So, yes. There are indeed risks.
Are you feeling the effect of climate change in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2018, and was fully updated in March 2022 for your reading pleasure.