Managing Climate Change In Coastal Regions

Climatologists warn that both natural and human environments must be fully studied for a holistic understanding of climate change.

AsianScientist (Sep. 9, 2014) – Human-led change and other non-climatic changes need to be taken into account when managing the world’s coastal regions already under threat from climate change and sea-level rise, according to a team of international scientists.

A more accurate estimate of the impact of climate change on coastal regions is especially important for developing countries and poorer communities, they warn in their paper published in Nature Communications.

The researchers reviewed 24 years of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assessments (the fifth and latest set being published in 2013 and 2014). They focused on climate change and sea-level rise impacts in the coastal zone, in addition to examining better methods for climate change management.

One of the study’s authors, Professor Charitha Pattiaratchi from the University of Western Australia, said the most important finding of the study was that to better understand climate change and its impacts, scientists needed to adopt an integrated approach into how coasts were changing.

“This involves recognizing other causes of change, such as constructions on the coast, population growth, economic development and changes in biodiversity,” he said.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Sally Brown from Southampton University, noted that scientific understanding of sea-level rise and climate change, and their effects on coastal zones, has greatly increased.

“We now recognize that we need to analyze all parts of our human and natural environments to understand how climate change will affect the world,” she said.

The scientists also acknowledged that long-term adaptation to climate change could greatly reduce impacts, but further research and evaluation was 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 salinisation, or coral reefs and particularly small, remote islands or poorer communities,” Dr. Brown said.

The study authors hope their findings will better current understanding of climate change impact and how to reduce impacts via adaptation.

The article can be found at: Brown et al. (2014) Shifting Perspectives on Coastal Impacts and Adaptation.


Copyright: University of Western Australia; Photo: Nicolas Raymond/Flickr/CC.
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