Climate change and adaptation
This NIWA led, FRST funded project will create the necessary information and tools to enable adaptation by central and local government and communities to the impacts of climate-induced change on the coastal environment.
The programme has four main components:
- Building a national coastal vulnerability profile
- Engaging communities and institutional decision-makers
- Institutionalising adaptation, and
- Evaluating and monitoring uptake and performance of adaptation strategies.
AgResearch is involved with the community engagement aspect of the research, in particular addressing the question ‘how can we engage with the public over adaptation to climate change?’.
For coastal communities, adapting to the impacts of climate change in a way which protects the things they value about their community is likely to be a considerable challenge. Consideration of future adaptation strategies tend to be very low priority for the general public due to the complexity of the issues, perceived lack of scientific consensus about the likely impacts, and the inter-generational nature of the impacts. How to overcome the resulting low levels of public motivation around climate change initiatives, and engage with local communities to enable and empower them to have debates around adaptation options, will be a key problem for local authorities and other key stakeholders. The research team, comprising Paula Blackett, Erin Smith (AgResearch), Helen Rouse, Terry Hume, Darcel Rickard, Rob Bell, Doug Ramsey (NIWA), Anne Hume (University of Waikato) Jim Dahm (Eco Nomos), Peter Wishart (Thames-Coromandel District Council), Peter Singleton, Vernon Pickett and Catherine Beard (Environment Waikato), have devised an approach to community engagement that:
- provides local community participants with visual and scientifically grounded perspectives of the likely future impacts of climate change on their community. We did this by using large aerial photos marked with potential projected impacts of coastal inundation, coastal erosions and estuarine habitat change;
- allows people to understand how these projected impacts affect what they currently value about their community and wish to retain; and
- facilitates debate around future options, and allows consideration of what actions could be taken to protect the things which are of value in the community against the projected impacts of climate change.
To date, the approach has been applied to a case study in Whitianga, on the Coromandel Peninsula, North Island, New Zealand. An Open Day and Workshop were held, that were highly successful and the data generated has provided an insight into not only what people value about Whitianga, but also what the likely conflicts will be as the impacts of climate change become evident. The spatial component of the work allows for more detailed rather than general discussion to occur regarding ways to protect particular valued objects into the future. However, the things the participants valued which would be affected by climate change cannot all be protected. There will need to be tradeoffs between protecting natural ecosystems and landscapes, retaining access to the estuary, beach, and parks and reserves for recreational activities and food gathering, retaining beach access, and protecting private interests in property and local infra-structure. However, this process will help inform these choices. The output from this strand of research will be the development of good practice guidelines for local authorities on how to apply this approach to engaging with the community over adaptation to climate change.