Sea Scotland 2019
Sea, Soul and Society: adapting to climate change
We are now living in a ‘climate emergency’, a state where only urgent and meaningful action on climate change impacts will give humans, wildlife and the natural environment in which they live the chance to continue forwards and cultivate a more sustainable earth. Most of the readers of this blog will know that to do this necessitates both mitigation – actions to address the causes of climate change – and adaptation.
Climate Change adaptation is defined as the adjustment in economic, social or natural systems in response to actual or expected climatic change, to limit harmful consequences and exploit beneficial opportunities. To adapt to climate change, we need to recognise that it is already happening and that our environment is already altered by its effects, whether permanently or reversibly. That’s not to say that mitigation is not essential and a critical global priority to address the reversible effects, bring our environment back to a better state and prevent further change. But it requires a different kind of approach to ensure that the environment and society has resilience in the face of change.
Scotland is well-aware as a nation of the need for adaptation to climate change, with the recent consultation on the Scottish Government’s revised Climate Change Action Plan and other specialist organisations, such as MCCIP and Adaptation Scotland, bringing these issues to the fore. Some industries, businesses and financial institutions are also now factoring climate change adaptation into their business strategies and future development. Most human activities at sea and on the coast are inextricably linked to the environment – how climate change affects the marine environment will largely dictate what human adaptation is required and how this could be done.
Many marine habitats in their natural state can provide resilience and protection from climate change effects, such as saltmarsh meadows and other habitats that help to protect coastlines from erosion and storm surges. However, both sea level rise and the increased frequency and severity of storm surges puts some of our coastal areas (and nearby infrastructure, such as railways, roads and buildings) at risk and management measures are needed to prevent this. Similarly, the effects of climate change may cause a geographic redistribution of commercial fish stocks or affect their ability to survive. Fishing industry behaviour and regulations will need to change to become more sustainable, but more scientific information is needed to inform this. There is no one solution and no one person or group has all the solutions; it requires consideration, input and action from all involved – science, industry, leaders and decision-makers, communities, individuals. There is a lot to do in limited and urgent timescales.
At Sea Scotland we won’t find all the solutions, but we aim to support join up across all science, policy, decision-making, marine stakeholders and communities to highlight issues and foster creative ‘blue seas’ thinking for sustainable seas.