The pace and progress of adaptation: Marine climate change preparedness in Australia׳s coastal communities

Last modified: 
August 30, 2016 - 9:47am
Type: Journal Article
Year of publication: 2015
Date published: 03/2015
Authors: Michael Bradley, Ingrid van Putten, Marcus Sheaves
Journal title: Marine Policy
Volume: 53
Pages: 13 - 20
ISSN: 0308597X

This study provides an assessment of local government progress in adaptation to marine climate change in Australia׳s coastal communities. Globally, coastal communities are vulnerable to a diversity of marine climate change impacts, and adaptation responses will need to be tailored to suit each unique socio-ecological situation. The responsibility of adaptation planning is largely placed on municipal councils, yet much of this activity goes unreported in the peer-reviewed literature. Through a meta-analysis of municipal planning documents this study reveals that in general, progress is in the early stages. Many councils have no plans, and the presence of plans seems to be related to the magnitude of council income as well as participation in regional or international adaptation networks. Of those councils that do have plans, only half have progressed beyond the ‘understanding the problem’ phase. Additionally, the focus of marine adaptation planning is generally restricted to one driver – sea level rise. Changing sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification were largely ignored, despite predicted impacts on coastal ecosystems and the communities that interact and depend on them. While it is often assumed that developed countries have the capacity to adapt to climate change, this study indicates that for some important aspects of marine change in Australia, this capacity is not always translated into action by local councils. The development and refinement of progress indicators such as those used in this study will be increasingly important as tools for establishing baselines and tracking adaptation into the future.

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