infrastructure in place to prevent flooding, but with limited success (Ahmad and Ahmed, 2003). Vietnam's transition from state central planning to a more market-oriented economy has had negative impacts on social vulnerability, with a decrease in institutional adaptation to environmental risks associated with flooding and typhoon impacts in the coastal environment (Adger, 2000). In a practical sense adaptation options for coral reefs are limited (Buddemeier, 2001) as is the case for most ecosystems. The continuing observed degradation of many coastal ecosystems (Section 6.2.2), despite the considerable efforts to reverse the trend, suggests that it will also be difficult to alleviate the added stresses resulting from climate change.
Knowledge and skill gaps are important impediments to understanding potential impacts, and thus to developing appropriate adaptation strategies for coastal systems (Crimp et al., 2004). The public often has conflicting views on the issues of sustainability, hard and soft defences, economics, the environment and consultation. Identifying the information needs of local residents, and facilitating access to information, are integral components in the process of public understanding and behavioural change (Myatt et al., 2003; Moser, 2005, 2006; Luers and Moser, 2006).
There are also important trade-offs in adaptation. For instance, while hard protection can greatly reduce the impacts of sea level and climate change on socio-economic systems, this is to the detriment of associated natural ecosystems due to coastal squeeze (Knogge et al., 2004; Rochelle-Newall et al., 2005). Managed retreat is an alternative response, but at what cost to socio-economic systems? General principles that can guide decision making in this regard are only beginning to be developed (Eurosion, 2004; Defra, 2006). Stakeholders will be faced with difficult choices, including questions as to whether traditional uses should be retained, whether invasive alien species or native species increasing in abundance should be controlled, whether planned retreat is an appropriate response to rising relative sea level or whether measures can be taken to reduce erosion. Decisions will need to take into account social and economic as well as ecological concerns (Adam, 2002). Considering these factors, the US Environmental Protection Agency is preparing sea-level rise planning maps that assign all shores along its Atlantic Coast to categories indicating whether shore protection is certain, likely, unlikely, or precluded by existing conservation policies (Titus, 2004). In the Humber estuary (UK) sea-level rise is reducing the standard of protection, and increasing erosion. Adaptation initiatives include creation of new intertidal habitat, which may promote more cost-effective defences and also helps to offset the loss of protected sites, including losses due to coastal squeeze (Winn et al., 2003).
Effective policies for developments that relate to the coast are sensitive to resource use conflicts, resource depletion and to pollution or resource degradation. Absence of an integrated holistic approach to policy-making, and a failure to link the process of policy-making with the substance of policy, results in outcomes that some would consider inferior when viewed within a sustainability framework (Noronha, 2004). Proponents of managed retreat argue that provision of long-term sustainable coastal defences must start with the premise that "coasts need space" (Rochelle-Newall et al., 2005). Some argue that governments must work to increase public awareness, scientific knowledge, and political will to facilitate such a retreat from the "sacrosanct" existing shoreline (Pethick, 2002). Others argue that the highest priority should be the transfer of property rights in lesser developed areas, to allow for changing setbacks in anticipation of an encroaching ocean. This makes inland migration of wetlands and beaches an expectation well before the existing shoreline becomes sacrosanct (Titus, 2001). Property rights and land use often make it difficult to achieve such goals, as shown by the post-Katrina recovery of New Orleans. Economic, social, ecological, legal and political lines of thinking have to be combined in order to achieve meaningful policies for the sustainable development of groundwater reserves and for the protection of subsurface ecosystems (Danielopol et al., 2003). Socio-economic and cultural conditions frequently present barriers to choosing and implementing the most appropriate adaptation to sea-level rise. Many such barriers can often be resolved by way of education at all levels, including local seminars and workshops for relevant stakeholders (Kobayashi, 2004; Tompkins et al., 2005a). Institutional strengthening and other interventions are also of importance (Bettencourt et al., 2005).
Adaptive capacity is the ability of a system to evolve in order to accommodate climate changes or to expand the range of variability with which it can cope (see Chapter 17 for further explanation). The adaptive capacity of coastal communities to cope with the effects of severe climate impacts declines if there is a lack of physical, economic and institutional capacities to reduce climate-related risks and hence the vulnerability of high-risk communities and groups. But even a high adaptive capacity may not translate into effective adaptation if there is no commitment to sustained action (Luers and Moser, 2006).
Current pressures are likely to adversely affect the integrity of coastal ecosystems and thereby their ability to cope with additional pressures, including climate change and sea-level rise. This is a particularly significant factor in areas where there is a high level of development, large coastal populations and high levels of interference with coastal systems. Natural coastal habitats, such as dunes and wetlands, have a buffering capacity which can help reduce the adverse impacts of climate change. Equally, improving shoreline management for non-climate change reasons will also have benefits in terms of responding to sea-level rise and climate change (Nicholls and Klein, 2005). Adopting a static policy approach towards sea-level rise conflicts with sustaining a dynamic coastal system that responds to perturbations via sediment movement and long-term evolution (Crooks, 2004). In the case of coastal megacities, maintaining and enhancing both resilience and adaptive capacity for weather-related hazards are critically important policy and management goals. The dual approach brings benefits in terms of linking analysis of present and future hazardous conditions. It also enhances the capacity for disaster prevention and preparedness, disaster recovery and for adaptation to climate change (Klein et al., 2003).
Yohe and Tol (2002) assessed the potential contributions of various adaptation options to improving systems' coping capacities. They suggest focusing attention directly on the underlying determinants of adaptive capacity (see Section 17.3.1). The future status of coastal wetlands appears highly sensitive to societal attitudes to the environment (Table 6.1), and this could be a more important control of their future status than sea-level rise (Nicholls, 2004). This highlights the importance of the socio-economic conditions (e.g., institutional capabilities; informed and engaged public) as a fundamental control of impacts with and without climate change (Tompkins et al., 2005b). Hazard awareness education and personal hazard experience are significant and important contributors to reducing community vulnerability. But despite such experience and education, some unnecessary and avoidable losses associated with tropical cyclone and storm surge hazards are still highly likely to occur (Anderson-Berry, 2003). These losses will differ across socio-economic groups, as has been highlighted recently by Hurricane Katrina. The constraints and limitations on adaptation by coastal systems, both natural and human, highlight the benefits for deeper public discourse on climate risk management, adaptation needs, challenges and allocation and use of resources.
Policies that enhance social and economic equity, reduce poverty, increase consumption efficiencies, decrease the discharge of wastes, improve environmental management, and increase the quality of life of vulnerable and other marginal coastal groups can collectively advance sustainable development, and hence strengthen adaptive capacity and coping mechanisms. Many proposals to strengthen adaptive capacity have been made including: mainstreaming the building of resilience and reduction of vulnerability (Agrawala and van Aalst, 2005; McFadden et al., 2007b); full and open data exchange (Hall, 2002); scenarios as a tool for communities to explore future adaptation policies and practices (Poumadere et al., 2005); public participation, co-ordination among oceans-related agencies (West, 2003); research on responses of ecological and socio-economic systems, including the interactions between ecological, socio-economic and climate systems (Parson et al., 2003); research on linkages between upstream and downstream process to underpin comprehensive coastal management plans (Contreras-Espinosa and Warner,
2004); research to generate useful, usable and actionable information that helps close the science-policy gap (Hay and Mimura, 2006); strengthening institutions and enhancing regional co-operation and co-ordination (Bettencourt et al.,
2005); and short-term training for practitioners at all levels of management (Smith, 2002a).
6.6.5 The links between adaptation and mitigation in coastal and low-lying areas
Adaptation (e.g., coastal planning and management) and mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions) are responses to climate change, which can be considered together (King,
2004) (see Chapter 18). The response of sea-level rise to mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions is slower than for other climate factors (Meehl et al., 2007) and mitigation alone will not stop growth in potential impacts (Nicholls and Lowe, 2006). However, mitigation decreases the rate of future rise and the ultimate rise, limiting and slowing the need for adaptation as shown by Hall et al. (2005). Hence Nicholls and Lowe (2006) and Tol (2007) argue that adaptation and mitigation need to be considered together when addressing the consequences of climate change for coastal areas. Collectively these interventions can provide a more robust response to human-induced climate change than consideration of each policy alone.
Adaptation will provide immediate and longer-term reductions in risk in the specific area that is adapting. On the other hand, mitigation reduces future risks in the longer term and at the global scale. Identifying the optimal mix is problematic as it requires consensus on many issues, including definitions, indicators and the significance of thresholds. Importantly, mitigation removes resources from adaptation, and benefits are not immediate, so investment in adaptation may appear preferable, especially in developing countries (Goklany,
2005). The opposite view of the need for urgent mitigation has recently been argued (Stern, 2007). Importantly, the limits to adaptation may mean that the costs of climate change are underestimated (Section 6.6.3), especially in the long term. These findings highlight the need to consider impacts beyond 2100, in order to assess the full implications of different mitigation and adaptation policy mixes (Box 6.6).
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