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:
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.
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.
— Jean-Philippe Vriet (@JeanPhilipVriet) January 1, 2021
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.