EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Mapping the soft and ethical dimensions of sea level rise in southern Sweden

Lisa Van Well1, Anette Björlin2, Per Danielsson3, Godefroid Godefroid Ndayikengurukiye4, and Gunnel Göransson5
Lisa Van Well et al.
  • 1Swedish Geotechnical Institute, Geotechnical risk and climate adaptation, Sweden (
  • 2Swedish Geotechnical Institute, Geotechnical risk and climate adaptation, Sweden (
  • 3Swedish Geotechnical Institute, Geotechnical risk and climate adaptation, Sweden (
  • 4Swedish Geotechnical Institute, Geotechnical risk and climate adaptation, Sweden (
  • 5Swedish Geotechnical Institute, Geotechnical risk and climate adaptation, Sweden (

Sea level rise poses profound challenges within current municipal and regional governance since it requires unusually long planning horizons, is surrounded by great uncertainties, and gives rise to novel ethical challenges. Adaptation to climate change is fundamentally an ethical issue because the aim of any proposed adaptation measure is to protect that which is valued in society. One of the most salient ethical issues discussed in the adaptation literature relates to the distribution of climate related risks, vulnerabilities and benefits across populations and over time. Raising sea-walls is typically associated with high costs and potentially negative ecological impacts as well as substantial equity concerns; managed retreat or realignment often causes problems related to property rights; and migration out of low-lying areas can involve the loss of sense and cultural identity and impact on receiving communities.

How can the soft and ethical dimensions of rising mean sea levels be characterized and how can their consequences be mapped? To help municipalities to understand the values and ethics attached to measures to deal with long-term rising sea levels in southern Sweden, we are developing a methodology of soft or ethical values to complement to GIS-mapping of coastal vulnerability based on coastal characteristics and socio-economic factors.

Rather than determining these values a priori, they are being discerned through workshops with relevant stakeholders and in interviews with citizens residing in and utilizing the coastal areas. The methodology attempts to determine the place-based of values within coastal communities with a focus on “whose” values, “what” values, and the long-term or short-term nature of values. It builds on an analytical framework developed to acquire information on the behavior, knowledge, perception and feelings of people living, working and enjoying the coastal areas.  In turn this stakeholder-based information is used to co-create “story maps” as tools to communicate complicated vulnerability analyses, highlight the ethical dimensions of various adaptation measures, raise awareness and aid decisionmakers in taking uncomfortable decisions to “wicked” planning problems around the negative effects of sea level rise, coastal erosion and urban flooding.

This paper presents the methodological development of the task as well as the results the study in four Swedish municipalities. The representation of the “soft” and ethical values provides an opportunity to help clarify these values to policymakers and increase resilience to rising sea levels.

How to cite: Van Well, L., Björlin, A., Danielsson, P., Godefroid Ndayikengurukiye, G., and Göransson, G.: Mapping the soft and ethical dimensions of sea level rise in southern Sweden, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-21324,, 2020


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displays version 1 – uploaded on 01 May 2020
  • CC1: story maps, Maria Bostenaru Dan, 04 May 2020

    Hi Lisa,

    I enjoyed the chat. From the material it is was not clear to me before that you used story maps. To me the new design does not seem so good as the classic, as mostly when I insert them in papers, people don't find the following photos and ask me to submit them separately (it happend more times).

    I could not follow if it is possible to add to the living atlas as ESRI maps.

    thanks a lot


    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Lisa Van Well, 04 May 2020

      Thanks Maria. I'll check to see if the ESRI story maps can be added to the living atlas and get back to you.  Lisa