Last week a major storm surge created havoc in large parts of Denmark, flooding, among other places, the harbor area in Kolding municipality, one of the members in the KYST+ network, creating damage for several million Danish kroner.

The event was covered widely in the Danish media as reporters in rubber boots took to the streets and broadcasted live from exposed areas, following the work of our Emergency personnel and volunteers struggling to keep the water at bay. An effort that was largely successful building on experience from previous storms in the last couple of years.

As Christian Bennicke reports in Dagbladet Information the storm surge thus became the perfect ‘cozy’ storm creating just the right amount of distress without ever putting any lives at risk or presenting major threats to critical infrastructure, enabling a sentiment of excitement rather than actual fear. It became a moment of collective national smalltalk as Bennicke frames it, the weather being a harmless conversation topic with the ability to create social identification.

However, as has also been addressed elsewhere the threat of future storms and storm surges should not be taken lightly. With climate change the future more than ever before presents major threats to our cities and coast line, unmanageable with current means. As our minister of industry, business and financial affairs Brian Mikkelsen says it, rising sea levels caused by climate change are one of the biggest challenges for Denmark as a whole.

It is thus not the time for a sigh of relieve, but the time to take action. If there is anything positive to say about the media commotion surrounding the event, it must be, that it has created a heightened awareness among citizens and officials and forced members of the Danish parliament to reconsider the current legislation and procedures on coastal protection. The critique is univocal in its demand of a speedier process and a national coordinated effort.

A critique that we bid welcome, because one thing is clear when it comes to coastal protection. It needs to be solved collaboratively, or we will only push the problem further along the coast to neighboring areas and municipalities. However, there is no need to wait for the state to solve the problem. Rather we need to start looking for new financial models that can raise the needed capital for new solutions and we need to look at ways to organize us across municipalities and public and private authorities and organizations. We believe that it is essential that we work together to think of new solutions that not only protects us against the rising waters but enables us to use the challenge as an opportunity for creating more liveable cities with room for both people and water.

The work has already started and you can find a short commentary from our first thematic meeting right here, where we looked at the many different possibilities for creating coastal protection with co-benefits in Kolding.

We encourage you to get involved in the conversation and please add your comments or suggestions for how to deal with the rising waters below. Let’s get to work!