Addressing non-climatic impacts will improve long-term resilience
FRISCO — From mountains, forests and rivers down to the seashore, a common theme among researchers is that, in many places, human impacts stemming from land use and development still outweigh the global warming signal.
That includes coastal regions, were there is an immediate need to tackle the threats from non-climatic changes, an international research team said this week after a detailed review of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessments.
The scientists concluded that, to better understand climate change and its impacts, scientists need to adopt an integrated approach into how coasts are changing. This involves recognizing other causes of change, such as population growth, economic development and changes in biodiversity.
“Over the last two and half decades, our scientific understanding of climate change and sea-level rise, and how it will affect coastal zones has greatly increased,” said study leader Dr. Sally Brown, with the University of Southampton. “We now recognize that we need to analyse all parts of our human and natural environments to understand how climate change will affect the world.”
The scientists also acknowledged that long-term adaptation to climate change can greatly reduce impacts, but further research and evaluation is required to realize the potential of adaptation.
“Many parts of the coast can, with forward planning, adapt to sea-level rise, but we need to better understand environments that will struggle to adapt, such as developing countries with large low-lying river deltas sensitive to salinization, or coral reefs and particularly small, remote islands or poorer communities,” said Dr. Brown.
For example, in the Maldives, many small, remote low-lying islands are at risk from climate change and will struggle to adapt. But around the densely populated capital city and airport, adaptation has already occurred as land claim is a common practice in order to relive population pressure. Sea-level rise has already been considered into newly claimed land. Thus in decades to come, potential climate change impacts, such as flooding, will be reduced for this island, benefiting both the local population and economy.
“The IPCC has done a great job in bringing together knowledge on climate change, sea-level rise and is potential impacts,” said Dr, Jochen Hinkel, with the Global Climate Forum in Germany, a lead author of the coastal chapter for the 2014 IPCC Assessment Report.
Hinkel said the challenge now is to build on that work with a solution-oriented perspective focusing on overcoming barriers to adaptation, mobilizing resources, empowering people and discovering opportunities for strengthening coastal resilience in the context of both climate change as well as existing coastal challenges and other issues.”
This new research was published as a commentary in Nature Climate Change.