Blog on ‘Managing our coastal risks: A serious cause for concern?’ seminar by Professor Edmund C. Penning-Rowsell’

MSc ECE student Xue Ong  (Gladys) reports on this terms’ Flagship coastal seminar, by Professor Edmund C. Penning-Rowsell’


On 23 October 2018, we were very pleased to have Professor Edmund Penning-Rowsell from Middlesex & Oxford Universities to speak on the topic: “Managing our coastal risks: A serious cause for concern?”

Managing our coastal risks: A serious cause for concern?’ by Professor Edmund

Our coastal areas are at increasing risk to flooding, as a consequence of climate change and in particular sea level rise. According to the UK’s National Risk Register of Civil Emergencies, coastal and river flooding is rated as high impact severity and likelihood of occurrence in the near-term period.

Prof. Edmund addressed the topic of coastal risk management with a ‘Three-frame’ concept. The first frame relates to the Scale of the risk we face and matching the scale to the issue, meaning to match a solution to the issue in its appropriate scalar dimension. The avoidance of scalar disconnect can bring about better solutions, for instance, tackling a national-scale issue like flood risk management and defence can be managed effectively with national strategic planning instead of leaving to the local authorities to respond.

The second frame is on Risk and self-imposed risk. We, human beings are often the main cause of our own suffering. Many coastal cities continue to develop towards the coast instead of moving the away from the risky areas. An example is Shanghai, which lies in a flood-prone area, has however intensified developments rapidly over the last decade, hence increasing and self-imposing itself to flooding risk.

The third frame is on Robust portfolio optimisation. Sea defence structures built for coastal resiliency can be very costly (e.g. tidal barriers in Venice) , and an optimum design is necessary for adequacy and prudent spending. And in the case of protecting the piece of rough agriculture land with groynes along the shoreline, this poses a question if this is the optimal approach and if the asset is worth protecting (in terms of the land value and cost of the coastal protection works involved).

‘Three-Frame’ concept on coastal risk management

Prof. Edmund has indeed given the audience many insights on the challenging issues in managing the coastal risks and sets us into deep thinking what does an effective portfolio look like and how can it be optimised to better manage and meet the challenges of predicted climate change in the future with the ‘Three-frame’ concept.

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