Managing coasts under threat from climate change and sea-level rise

Managing coasts under threat from climate change and sea-level rise
Sea levels are rising.

Coastal regions under threat from climate change and sea-level rise need to tackle the more immediate threats of human-led and other non-climatic changes, according to a team of international scientists.

The team of 27 scientists from five continents, led by Dr Sally Brown at the University of Southampton, 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, and examined ways of how to better manage and cope with climate change.

They found that to better understand climate change and its impacts, scientists need to adopt an integrated approach into how coasts are changing. This involves recognising other causes of change, such as population growth, economic development and changes in biodiversity. Dr Brown emphasised that: "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. We now recognise 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 realise 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," 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 , such as flooding, will be reduced for this island, benefiting both the local population and economy.

Dr Jochen Hinkel from Global Climate Forum in Germany, who is a co-author of this paper and a Lead Author of the coastal chapter for the 2014 IPCC Assessment Report added: "The IPCC has done a great job in bringing together knowledge on climate change, and is potential impacts but now needs to complement this work with a solution-oriented perspective focusing on overcoming barriers to adaptation, mobilising 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, published as a commentary in Nature Climate Change, will help in the understanding of the impacts of and how to reduce impacts via adaptation. Its multi-disciplinary approach could be useful if future IPCC assessment reports are commissioned.

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Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: Managing coasts under threat from climate change and sea-level rise (2014, August 29) retrieved 22 October 2019 from
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Aug 29, 2014
Great picture, is that a polar bear on an iceberg?

How am I supposed to believe the article when that headline and picture are the first things I see?

I know propaganda when I see it. They must be working overtime at the Ministry of Truth.

Aug 29, 2014
Are you kidding? Don't you recognize Hawaii when you see it? That's all that's left.

Aug 29, 2014
Perfect time for a pirates resurgence.

Aug 29, 2014
Coastlines are indeed impacted by numerous factors: local subsidence (sinking land, like Chesapeake Bay), population growth, land use and sea level rise among others. All of these need to be considered and they vary by locale.

Btw, this statement is inaccurate: "in the Maldives, many small, remote low-lying islands are at risk from climate change and will struggle to adapt."

The Maldives are coral atolls and it has been well documented that most coral atolls are actually growing faster than sea level rise. Their coastlines are either stable or rising. Tide gauges in the Maldives have been installed relatively recently and show no sea level rise, but geological evidence shows sea levels may have actually declined. More study is required, but based on studies of other coral atolls, it would not be surprising if sea levels in the Maldives are fairly stable.

Aug 29, 2014
From a Google Search.

Since the 1950s, sea level in and around the Maldives has been rising at a rate of 0.03–0.06 inches (0.8–1.6 millimeters) per year.7,8,9 Because of the Maldivian topography, small changes in sea level translate into extensive land inundation.

Sep 02, 2014
Deny this;
Science says it's too late to stop a crisis now but science still refuses to budge past their 32 years of 95% certainty that it just "could be" a crisis and never;"will be" a crisis. You can't blame scientists for studying what they were asked to study; the effects not causes of an assumed to "real" crisis.
You eager believers are the only ones with a 100% "consensus" of certainty. We see your exaggeration and so does history.
Now who's the fear mongering neocon?

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