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CLIMATE CRISIS

MAPS: The parts of France set to be underwater as sea levels rise

The map of France is changing due to climate change. These are are primary areas in France that will be most impacted by rising tides:

MAPS: The parts of France set to be underwater as sea levels rise
Which parts of France are most at risk of rising sea levels? Photo: LOU BENOIST / AFP

France and its long coastline are unfortunately not slated to be spared from sea level rise. 

According to the latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) estimates – in the best case scenario – the average level of the ocean will rise by at least 28 cm by 2100. However, based on the planet’s current trajectory, experts consider it more likely that sea level rise could increase by between 63 cm to 1.01 metres, should humanity fail to decrease greenhouse gas emissions. 

Should oceans rise by one metre, many parts of France would be severely impacted. The American research institute Climate Central sought to simulate what the world would look like with such a rise in sea levels, highlighting in red the land most at-risk to be underwater.

From the coastal area near Montpellier (Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer) becoming a peninsula to many of La Vendée’s beautiful beaches under water, here is how the face of France could change as a result of one metre of sea level rise: 

The North

One metre of sea level rise would particularly impact the area from Calais to Dunkirk – a distance of almost 45 kilometres – as shown in the map below. Higher tides would cover areas up to 15-20 km inland, as well. 

In Normandy, the collapse of cliffs, like those in Étretat has been a sign of rising waters, Denis Lacroix, a representative from the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea told BFMTV. 

He added that while coastal erosion is one sign, the sea will not “rise like a bathtub,” and that first there will be “extreme weather events.”

Another part of the English Channel coastline, the coastline south of the chic coastal town of La Touquet to Ault stands to be eroded by water, with some higher altitude sections spared, though destined – in a scenario of one metre sea level rise – to become islands.  

That area includes the low lying Baie de Somme, and stunning villages such as Saint-Valery sur Somme and La Crotoy.

Parts of Normandy that could be impacted are the flood planes along the mouth of the Seine river near La Havre, and the national wetland park made up of the Cotentin & Bessin marshes, which is home to much wildlife and a diverse bird population on the Cotentin peninsular.

In Loire-Atlantique

Much of the mouth of the Loire river near Nantes will be under water amid these climate forecasts. Riverside parts of the city of Nantes will be impacted, though based on current projections city as a whole is set to mostly remain above water. 

In La Vendée

The map shows significant portions of red in the area north of La Rochelle, particularly the regional Park of the Marais Poitevin – known for its canals and wetlands.

Some of La Vandée’s stunning beaches, like Plage des Becs could be underwater in 2100, if waters go up by one metre.

According to Lacroix, sea level rise is “an accelerating phenomenon,” as evidenced by the fact that “in the last century, the rise in sea level was two milimetres per year, but over the last twenty years it has been four milimetres.”

In Gironde and Charente-Maritime:

Most of the coastline north of Bordeaux to Rochefort could be underwater by 2100.

One symbol of coastal erosion in Gironde is the building Le Signal, in Soulac-sur-Mer. When it was built in 1967, it was 200 metres from the shore, and in 2022 it was only about ten meters from the water. 

There is particular concern for the Lacanau area in Gironde, which has a population density on its coasts which is “2.5 times higher than the national average,” according to France’s ministry of environment. In the coming years, inhabitants in this area may have to be evacuated due to sea level rise.

On the Mediterranean

Finally, along the Mediterranean, the coastline of the Hérault département will be particularly affected. This area is mostly located near Montpellier, as shown below:

There is considerable risk for the Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer to become a peninsula over time. 

The map below from France’s Ministry of Ecology shows which parts of the country are at risk of rising sea levels, but also forest fires and flooding.

How will France will be affected by climate change, from forest fires to coastal flooding. Image: Ministry of Ecology

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CLIMATE CRISIS

France records 10,000 excess deaths in second hottest summer on record

After the second hottest summer ever recorded in France - after 2003 - French health authorities have released data on excess deaths recorded over the season.

France records 10,000 excess deaths in second hottest summer on record

In a press release published by Santé publique France on Monday evening, the health authority noted that “multiple climatic phenomena” occurred during the summer, calling it the “hottest since 1900” with a “significant health impact.”

The data covers June to September and lists 10,420 excess deaths – that is deaths in excess of the average for the summer season.

Of those 2,816 deaths occurred during the three periods when the country was officially on heatwave alert – a 16.7 percent increase when compared to non-heatwave periods during the summer.

Experts also believe that many of the remaining 7,604 excess deaths were heat related, even if they occurred during periods when there was no heatwave warning in place.

“A part of this excess of summer mortality is probably due to the population being exposed to strong heat, even if temperatures did not reach the thresholds for heatwave alerts,” noted the report.

As expected, the worst affected were the elderly. Of the 2,816 excess deaths recorded during the three heatwave episodes this summer, 2,272 were among people aged 75 and over, i.e. nearly 80 percent of excess deaths during heatwaves.

However, all age groups were represented, as shown in the figures below. Most of the deaths across age groups occurred during the second heatwave, which was the “most intense” in terms of heat.

The impact of the pandemic

The pandemic also likely played a role in heat-related deaths. Specifically, 894 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded in hospitals and medical establishments during the heatwave episodes.

The head of Santé publique France’s “Quality of Living and Population Health” unit, Guillaume Boulanger, explained in a press conference that “Covid-19 could have increased vulnerability to heat for some people, and exposure to the heat may have worsened the condition of some patients affected by the virus.”

The excess mortality in relation to high temperatures is France’s “highest since 2003,” a year where a three-week heatwave resulted in over 15,000 deaths.

It was this heatwave, and the shock that so many elderly people were found dead in their own homes, that led to cities creating the heatwave plans that are in use today.

In addition to excess mortality, there was also a rise in non-fatal health complications across the country. Throughout the entire summer, more than 17,000 emergency room visits and 3,000 SOS Médecins consultations were recorded for hyperthermia, dehydration and hyponametria (salt deficiency resulting from dehydration).

Additionally, during heatwave periods, the number of emergency room visits and SOS Médecins consultations were two to three times higher than outside of heatwave periods.

The three heatwaves were described in the report as “intense and noteworthy.” The first occurred in June, at an unusually early time for the summer season, the second in July, which was widespread geographically and impacted over two-thirds of French population, and the third occurred in August.  

Geography

In terms of the parts of France that were most impacted, four regions – mostly concentrated in France’s south – stand out with particularly high levels of excess mortality.

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Nouvelle Aquitaine, Occitanie, and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur recorded the majority of the country’s excess national deaths during the heatwaves.

However, when looking at the deaths in proportion to the number of inhabitants, Brittany, a region typically known for cooler summer temperatures, saw a high proportion. The Paris region and Grand Est also saw higher per-population proportions of excess deaths.

The report joins other literature on the topic of excess deaths in Europe as a result of climatic events. The European Environment Agency recently released a study showing that without adaptation measures, if global warming were to reach 3C by 2100, “90,000 Europeans could die from heatwaves each year.”

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