Exploring Loss and Damage to People and Society from Climate Change impacts on Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Services

Exploring Loss and Damage to People and Society from Climate Change impacts on Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Services

Over the past decades, climate-related hazards, for instance rapid onset events such as floods and droughts, have increased in their occurrence and severity. Simultaneously, slow-onset processes such as sea-level rise and salinization continue unabated, leading to cascading impacts for ecosystems and people. Moreover, the severity of climate change will affect people’s livelihoods, particularly in low-lying areas and Small Island States (SIDS). Given these continuous pressures and disruptions on livelihoods, various people and institutions are discussing and implementing different adaptation strategies. However, adaptation strategies can be sometimes misguided and add negative consequences on current human and natural systems vulnerabilities. Sometimes adaptation to climate change impacts is no longer possible, leading to loss and damage to people and society.

The concept of loss and damage was first mentioned in 2013 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) with the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage (WIM). ‘Loss and damage’ does not have a consistent definition, but frequently refers to the unavoidable impacts of climate change due, for instance, to biophysical, social, financial, and technical constraints and the lack of consideration of context-specificities. Loss and damage are characterized as either economic (tradable in the market), such as physical assets, or non-economic (not tradable in the market), such as cultural heritage or ecosystem health and services. For instance, climate induced losses of ecosystem services that coastal communities rely on for their livelihoods and food security, may lead to the displacement of people, resulting in the loss of their identity, heritage, and local knowledge.

There is a need to better understand climate change impacts on ecosystems and their services in order to address loss and damage to people and society.  Within the MACOBIOS project, the focus is on understanding and increasing knowledge about the relationship between climate change, biodiversity, and marine and coastal ecosystem services to support better informed and inclusive decisions, despite the uncertainty posed by climate change impacts.

Through a gender and intersectional lens, I investigate the climate change impact on marine and coastal livelihoods and the limits of adaptation in Martinique. My research pays particular attention to people’s relationship with the ocean and marine and coastal ecosystem services (past, present, and future aspirations) as I seek to understand people’s values and use of these services for their livelihoods and well-being. Furthermore, I explore how people perceive the risks posed by climate change, how they are affected by climate change and why do they act in a specific way to climate change impacts and the resulting loss and damages. This also means considering social group specificities and institutions influencing people’s adaptative capacity.

Consideration of coastal communities’ heterogeneities, dependencies, needs, and priorities is crucial to ensure that science and adaptation policies and projects contribute to minimize and avoid loss and damage. My research will provide a better understanding of adaptation limits and how to address loss and damage induced by climate change on people and societies.  To achieve “The Science We Need For The Ocean We Want” as part of the UN Ocean Decade we must ensure that communities relying on coastal and marine ecosystem services are fully considered in our projects to ensure a more sustainable future.

EndNotes

My research also takes place in the context of a Lund University project called Recasting the Disproportionate Impacts of Climate Change Extremes (DICE) that focus on advancing the conceptualisation, measurement, and governance of loss and damage. To learn more please click here.
To learn more please read the article “Climate Change and Ecosystem Services – Implications for Present and Future Loss and Damage to People and  Society” in EcoMagazine-Rising Seas Edition 2021 here.

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Understanding power and different worldviews for achieving more just and sustainable coastal adaptation outcomes

Understanding power and different worldviews for achieving more just and sustainable coastal adaptation outcomes

Adaptation has become the centre of Small Island States’ (SIS) political response to cope with the impacts of climate change. Efforts to mainstream coastal adaptation policy among different sectors and improved access to international funds to meet adaptation costs have led to an increase in the number of adaptation projects. For SIS that depend on marine and coastal ecosystems, some interventions such as the construction of coastal protective structures and mangrove and coral restoration are increasingly being promoted as adaptation strategies. However, whilst this should be a cause for celebration, there is growing evidence that current interventions are failing to reduce the vulnerability of those people who are supposed to be supported by these very adaptation actions. But why are current efforts not necessarily reducing vulnerability? And what can we do to overcome these challenges so as to produce outcomes that are just and sustainable?
Fishers in Saint Lucia Photo
credit: Fabiola Espinoza

In this special issue of Eco Magazine -Rising Seas 2021, I unravel these questions by highlighting the role of power dynamics and worldviews in the governance of climate change adaptation. It is common that adaptation goals and priorities are set up and decided upon by people in positions of power, either intentionally, due to political decisions, or inadvertently, due to poorly designed and executed interventions. In doing so, the intended beneficiaries are often left out. For example, the construction of infrastructure as a flood protection strategy has proven to be effective in reducing the vulnerability of SIS to sea level rise, but is frequently implemented by those who have the power to do so, with a particular vision and interest in mind. This affects access to key resources and livelihoods, typically impacting groups who already tend to be marginalized. In this sense, if scientists and policy-makers truly want to reframe adaptation interventions, we must understand how these interventions are interconnected with the wider processes of political and social dynamics. Not only must we must understand ‘who decides what’, but also how values, interests and desired goals are weighted in decision making, and how this can affect the success of adaptation interventions. As the latest IPPC report highlights, with ocean warming, sea level rise and other changes to marine and coastal ecosystems expected to continue in the coming years, coastal adaptation as a policy response to climate change must be prioritized, now more than ever. While this is an indisputable challenge for policy makers and coastal communities, by considering how power and different values, beliefs and worldviews influence the design and institutional interventions of adaptation, we can use this opportunity to rethink current approaches and push for fairer and more equitable pathways.

To read the full article “More than Fixed Solutions: Power and Different Worldviews in Framing Coastal Adaptation Actions” in EcoMagazine-Rising Seas 2021 click here.

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