GRT guest blogger: Elizabeth Mclean is currently pursuing her PhD in Environmental Sciences from the University of Rhode Island (URI) and working as an research associate in the Coastal Resources Center at URI.
Effective and long-lasting ocean and coastal stewardship can only occur when a predictable, efficient, and accountable governance system is in place”
The National Research Council, 2008
At the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) in the University of Rhode Island what we do matters to the people living along the coasts. The CRC is a university based center of excellence that focuses on the management of the environment for the sake of the people. We are administrators, researchers and students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines working together with local people, governments and institutions. We are extension and outreach specialists concerned in the application of best practices based on both social and exact sciences to real-life coastal challenges.
Climate change is, and will continue to, affect coastal communities and in particularly islands. The 5th report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) highlights that Small Island developing states (SIDS) are particularly vulnerable to changes; these can be in the form of increased storms, increased temperatures and sea level rise. As these changes continue, the growth and development of SIDS will be affected and people’s existence will be at risk. Therefore, through adaptations the impacts of climate change can be reduced. The establishment of primary baselines and peoples understandings in communities along the coasts is essential for the development and planning of adaptations and for the collaborations needed. The integration of different avenues of adaptation requires the assessment of local capacities, existing frameworks and the vulnerabilities of the people. There is a value in the assessment of costs and benefits of the climate change adaptations, but there are also limitations. To our great disadvantage climate change aggravates and amplifies the impacts of other non-climate stressors. Through proper planning regulations, mitigation and retro-fitting of natural areas certain risks can be reduced.
In this regard, efforts in the past have looked at ways to implement and measure how to improve and restore the quality of coastal ecosystems and their associated societies. In 2003, CRC’s director Stephen Olsen outlined a series of four orders of outcomes towards sustainable ecosystem development; mentioned in Mat Rosa’s study. Both Rosa and Lohmann’s studies (Climate Change in the Dominican Republic: Impact on Coastal Resources and Communities) focus on the first order outcome outlined by Olsen: the enabling conditions of clear and measurable goals, the capacity to implement, the support of local constituents, and the government’s commitment needed for sustainable forms of coastal development. Lohmann further elaborates on aspects of resilience and the community’s ability to adapt to changes by assessing their ability to plan, their attachment to an occupation, their attachment to place, employment and financial security, among others. The results from these studies reveal that enabling conditions, including the capacity to address adaptations in the Dominican Republic are in place, with a need for more local stakeholders’ integration. The studies further found that direct resource users and sole providers are more vulnerable to climate changes than non-resource users and households with multiple providers/livelihoods. With this understanding, steps can be taken to diversify livelihoods and develop safety nets that address the resilience of local people.
1 – IPCC, 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Field, C.B., V.R. Barros, D.J. Dokken, K.J. Mach, M.D. Mastrandrea, T.E. Bilir, M. Chatterjee, K.L. Ebi, Y.O. Estrada, R.C. Genova, B. Girma, E.S. Kissel, A.N. Levy, S. MacCracken, P.R. Mastrandrea, and L.L. White (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.
2 – Olsen, Stephen B. “Frameworks and indicators for assessing progress in integrated coastal management initiatives.” Ocean & Coastal Management 46.3 (2003): 347-361.
3 – Kelman, I. 2014. “No Change from Climate Change: Vulnerability and Small Island Developing States (SIDS)”. The Geographical Journal, vol. 180, no. 2, pp. 120-129. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/geoj.12019/abstract
4 – Kelman, I. and J. West. 2009. “Climate Change and Small Island Developing States: A Critical Review”. Ecological and Environmental Anthropology, vol. 5, no. 1, pp. 1-16.