Methodological and Technological Issues in Technology Transfer

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15.2.2 Concurrent Stresses in Coastal Zones

Bijlsma et al. (1996) noted that climate-related change in coastal zones "represents potential additional stresses on systems that are already under intense and growing pressure". Climate change is one factor amongst many that affect coastal ecological systems and societies. Other factors that interact with climate change include overexploitation of resources, pollution, increasing nutrient fluxes, decreasing fresh-water availability, sediment starvation and urbanisation (Goldberg, 1994; Viles and Spencer, 1995). These non-climate stresses decrease the resilience of coastal systems to cope with natural climate variability and anticipated climate change (Nicholls and Branson, 1998; Klein and Nicholls, 1999). Bijlsma et al. (1996) concluded that "although the potential impacts of climate change by itself may not always be the largest threat to natural coastal systems, in conjunction with other stresses they can become a serious issue for coastal societies, particularly in those places where the resilience of natural coastal systems has been reduced."

Policies and practices that are unrelated to climate but which do increase a system's vulnerability to climate change are termed "maladaptation" (Burton, 1996, 1997). Examples of maladaptation in coastal zones include investments in hazardous zones, inappropriate coastal-defence schemes, sand or coral mining and coastal-habitat conversions. A common cause of maladaptation is a lack of information on the potential external effects of proposed developments on other sectors, or a lack of consideration thereof. More proactive and integrated planning and management of coastal zones is widely suggested as an effective mechanism for strengthening sustainable development (e.g., Cicin-Sain, 1993; Ehler et al., 1997; Cicin-Sain and Knecht, 1998) and can be both environmentally sound and economically efficient (Tol et al., 1996).

To identify the most appropriate coastal-adaptation strategy, one must consider the full context in which impacts of climate change arise, and realise that the three earlier-mentioned strategies-protect, retreat, accommodate-happen within a broader policy process. Within this process, increasing resilience by reversing maladaptive trends could be an important option to reduce coastal vulnerability to climate variability and change. This approach will often address more than climate issues alone and generally involve a change in adaptation strategy, for example, nourishing beaches instead of constructing seawalls, or introducing a building setback instead of allowing construction next to the coast.

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