3.9 Coastal Adaptation
Technology transfer for coastal adaptation to climate change has characteristics
that are in many ways different from explanations of transfer in other chapters
of Section II of the Report. It focuses on technologies for a geographic area
rather than on a specific resource, such as forestry and agriculture, or an
infrastructure issue, such as transportation and building construction. Populations
and infrastructure investments are continuously growing in these regions because
of the large number of valuable goods and services provided by coastal systems.
Yet, the coastal zone is perhaps the most vulnerable region to climate-related
hazards, such as storm surges and erosion. Extensive research has shown that
climate change will increase the hazard potential.
The potential impacts of climate change by itself may not always be the largest
threat to natural coastal systems. Coastal ecological systems and societies
are already under severe pressure from uncontrolled socio-economic growth leading
to overexploitation of natural resources, pollution, decreasing fresh-water
availability, and urbanisation. These non-climate stresses decrease the resilience
of coastal systems to cope with natural climate variability and increase their
vulnerability to climate change. However, governments often do not consider
adaptation a development objective, and there may be a great disparity between
government expenditures to improve social organisation and economic production
and investments of public resources in coastal adaptation.
In many places, technology has been instrumental in reducing society's vulnerability
to anticipated impacts of climate change in three basic ways:
- Protect--reduce the risk of the event by decreasing its probability
- Retreat--reduce the risk of the event by limiting its potential
- Accommodate--increase society's ability to cope with the effects
of the event.
Effective adaptation to climate change needs to consider the numerous non-climate
stresses in coastal zones and be consistent with existing policy criteria and
development objectives. Adaptation in coastal zones must strike a balance between
current pressures resulting from climate variability and unsustainable development,
and anticipated impacts of climate change and associated sea-level rise. Adaptation
technologies are best implemented as part of a broader, integrated coastal-management
framework that recognises immediate and longer-term sectoral needs. Win-win
situations could be established when coastal-adaptation technologies also provide
benefits unrelated to climate change such as improving recreatinal opportunities
enhancing biodiversity and reducing vulnerability to today's hazards.
Existing coastal technologies that have been used to deal with climate variability
in coastal zones and implementation of integrated coastal zone management can
also be applied to accomplish each of the four main steps to adapt to climate
change: (i) information development and awareness raising, (ii) planning and
design, (iii) implementation, and (iv) monitoring and evaluation. Important
data gathering technologies to describe coastal characteristics and processes
include in-situ and airborne and satellite-based remote sensing systems. Planning
and design tools include Geographical Information Systems and models. A range
of opportunities exists for the application of both hard and soft technologies
to complement economic, legal and institutional options for implementation of
the three main coastal adaptation strategies: protect, retreat and accommodate.
A large number of effective protection technologies are available, such as
dikes, seawalls, and beach nourishment. These also include traditional, indigenous,
non-western technologies, such as coconut-leaf walls, coconut-fibre stone units.
Technologies which are incorporated within a managed retreat strategy include
rolling easements, set-back zones, and moveable structures. An accommodation
strategy would employ technologies such as early warning systems for hazards,
rain/waste-water management, and desalination. A number of technologies which
have emerged to exchange knowledge and information to support integrated coastal
zone management may also be applied to evaluate the effectiveness of coastal
adaptation strategies. Despite this vast array of available technologies, many
of the world's vulnerable coastal countries currently do not have access to
adaptation technologies appropriate for their circumstances, nor to the knowledge
or resources that are required to develop or implement these. Therefore, extra
efforts should focus on promoting, adjusting, and transferring existing technologies,
rather than on the development of new technologies.
The predominant nature and goal of coastal adaptation require a form of technology
transfer that differs from many explanations of transfer that describe the process
as a company-to-company transaction. Coastal-adaptation technologies-with few
exceptions-are not developed and owned by business and industry. Economic considerations
are a major force in driving technology transfer for coastal adaptation, but
objectives are less focused on commercial terms. Rather, considerations of public
well-being are essential, such as the reduction of loss of property and lives,
and the protection of essential coastal habitats. Therefore, the strongest and
most direct incentives to adapt to climate change in coastal zones are with
the public sector, and government interests predominantly drive pathways of
technology transfer in coastal zones. Furthermore, many coastal-technology transactions
involve the exchange of information and knowledge that exist in the public domain.
Knowledge transactions have characteristics that make them quite different from
Many barriers to effective transfer of coastal adaptation technologies are
site-specific and require site-specific solutions. Four major general barriers
exist: (i) lack of data, information and knowledge to identify adaptation needs
and appropriate technologies, (ii) lack of local capacity and consequent dependence
of customers on suppliers of technology for operation, maintenance and duplication,
(iii) disconnected organisational and institutional relationships between relevant
actors and (iv) access to financial means. Overcoming these barriers does not
require setting up new bilateral and multilateral institutions or mechanisms.
Instead, existing activities and institutions need to be refocused to improve
the efficiency and effectiveness of coastal technology transfer. In addition,
regional collaboration and a redirection of funds to support appropriate coastal
adaptation to climate change are required.
Coastal adaptation to climate change is a transnational issue-it cannot be
addressed within the borders of one country, no matter how effective and creative
the decision-makers, innovative the academic relationships and dynamic the private
sector are in advancing the deployment of appropriate technologies.
First, all stakeholders must recognise that successful coastal adaptation depends
on many local factors, and adaptation technologies cannot be simply transferred
to other vulnerable areas. The effectiveness of a particular technology depends
on local circumstances, including the biophysical setting and economic, institutional,
legal and socio-cultural conditions. Technologies must be adjusted, oriented
and made appropriate for local conditions in the host country, possibly in the
context of integrated coastal zone management. Local expertise is essential
to identify and design appropriate coastal-adaptation technologies, as well
as to implement, operate and maintain these. Therefore, the importance of global
networks to improve and accelerate coastal-adaptation technology transfer should
not be underestimated. Such networks provide access to up-to-date information
and real-time tracking of global trends, accelerate the formation of joint ventures
and permit direct participation in strategic locations around the world. The
process for building these networks must include not only personal links but
also institutional and functional linkages.
Ever since humans have lived near the sea they have developed and applied technologies
to reduce their vulnerability to coastal hazards. The same technologies can
be applied to adapt to anticipated impacts of climate change. However, access
to these technologies in vulnerable areas can be a problem without effective
technology transfer. Improving and facilitating the process of technology transfer
are key challenges to reduce coastal vulnerability worldwide.