ATLANTIS - Atlantic Sea Level Rise: Adaptation to Imaginable Worst Case Climate Change

Background and Goals

The ATLANTIS project studies the effects of rising sea levels of five to six metres, due to the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, for the Rhône delta, the Netherlands and the Thames estuary region. In particular, the social consequences of climate effects and adaptation to "conceivable worst case scenarios" for climate change will be studied.

In addition to a scenario for each of the three regions, a formal risk assessment will be carried out and an approach selected that takes account of social values. The theory of optimum management for disasters will also be applied.

In the three case studies, the climate effect analysis will be combined with extensive consultations with experts and stakeholders, with the focus on what is viewed (by stakeholders) as most crucial, as opposed to what is quantifiable.

Content time

Research area/region

  • France
  • Great Britain
  • Netherlands
Spatial resolution 

Thames Estuary (England),
Rhone Estuary (France),
delta of the rivers Rhine and Maas (Netherlands)

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

As part of the project, three primarily qualitative scenarios have been developed, which have to consistently reflect the complex implications for Marseille, Amsterdam or London. Thus, the focus of the study is not on the facts of a five to six metre rise in sea levels, but on its significance for people.

The scenarios were developed in a series of interviews and workshops with stakeholders. The central scenario predicts an additional rise in sea levels of five metres within a century.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Sea level rise und storm surges
Time horizon
  • long term = to 2100 and beyond

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

The social effects of a five to six metre sea level rise will be analysed. All three case study areas would be severely affected by a five to six metre rise in sea levels.

Based on a risk analysis and cost/benefit analysis, a reduction in greenhouse gases is essential to avoid the risk of the West Antarctic ice sheet collapsing. However, the probability of complete melting has not been calculated.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Study of the hypothetical adaptation measures in the three case study areas based on stakeholder consultations. The objective is to assess the social consequences of climate effects and adaptation to "conceivable worst case climate scenarios" in three case studies.

Time horizon
  • 2071–2100 (far future)


Funding / Financing 

European Commission: research programme 5


Forschungsstelle Nachhaltige Umweltentwicklung
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D-20146 Hamburg

richard.tol @

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Fields of action:
 Küsten- und Meeresschutz