15-02-2012 Press release
Storm surges: Only every second person feels endangered – sensitivity to climate change is decreasing.
In November 2007, the cyclone Tilo swept over the North Sea, causing the highest water levels in Hamburg for eight years. The Hamburg Fish Market and low lying areas of the port were flooded.
The huge storm surge, which occurred in the night from the 16th to the 17th of February 1962, brought the North Sea into the centre of Hamburg. The citizens of Hamburg usually perceive the sea as something very distant. However, the occurrence of severe storm surges has changed this perception.
Although there was little awareness of the dangers of storm surges prior to 1962, extensive investments were made in flood protection measures after this disaster. Life behind the dykes appeared to be safe once again. A possible rise in storm surges due to the effects climate change is also taken into account in present day flood protection measures. Nevertheless, very severe storm surges, such as in 1962, can reoccur.
According to currently available information, flood protection will retain its present effectiveness until approx. 2030; after this date, however, the situation will have to be reappraised. The inhabitants of potential flood areas should be made aware of the dangers and be prepared, at least mentally, for an occurrence which may appear to be inconceivable.
Wissenschaftler erforschen Gefahreneinschätzung
The actions taken by officials and the public during a disaster can only function efficiently if the risks have been accurately assessed. Since 2008, the forsa Institute for Social Research and Statistical Analysis (Gesellschaft für Sozialforschung und statistische Analyse mbH), has been conducting annual telephone surveys on behalf of the Institute of Coastal Research, to question 500 citizens of Hamburg on their assessment of these dangers.
More than 80 percent regard storm surges as the greatest danger for Hamburg
The threat posed to the city of Hamburg by climate change is viewed differently. In this case, there is a clear downward trend. In comparison: in 2008, 61 percent of the inhabitants of Hamburg considered climate change to be a very great to a great threat. In 2011, this was only 44 percent. However, 60 percent are expecting noticeable effects in the next 10 years. As in the previous years, it was predominantly men and people over 60 who assessed the consequences of climate change as less threatening.
Only nine percent of the citizens of Hamburg regard climate change as posing absolutely no threat to the city. On the question of how they felt affected personally, the values have remained almost constant in recent years. Approximately half of those questioned feels personally endangered by storm surges, heat waves or torrential rain.
The results of the study show: dangers due to the effects of climate change are deemed to be lower from year to year. This trend is clearly not a phenomenon which is restricted to Hamburg. The tendency can be observed worldwide. In the case of Hamburg other problems play a larger role: very high on the list are educational and transport policies. The surveys will continue in order to update the trend for risk awareness in Hamburg. The next survey will take place in March/April 2012.
Dr. Torsten Fischer
Phone: +49 (0)4152 87-1677
Mobile Phone: +49 (0)171 235 0220