Climate Change Impacts & Coastal Community Resilience

The U.S. Agency for International Development (U.S. AID) has been bashed on both the left and right for aiding and abetting some painfully bad episodes in international development. Regardless of the critics’ stances, the agency also does some fine things with our tax dollars, including assisting countries in managing coastal and freshwater systems in an integrated manner.

tanker_cloud.jpgThe coasts of the world are understandably where a large majority of humans have settled. In the U.S. alone, over 53% of the population lives on the coast. In places like China, India and sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion is closer to 70%. That said, coastal areas are subjected to concentrated impacts of these populations on upland fresh water systems, estuaries, and coastal waters. More importantly for burgeoning coastal population centers are the increased demands for fresh water. Hence the need for folks employed by U.S. AID, the United Nations, and others to help communities throughout the world working on ways to manage both fresh water supplies and coastal resources in an integrated fashion. To document their own work, U.S. AID published Basins and Coasts.

The latest edition is focused on how communities worldwide might need to adapt to climate change. Coastal areas are obviously among the most vulnerable to climate change as witnessed by the impacts of “big events” like the Hurricane Katrina on the U.S. Gulf Coast, Cyclone Sidr in India and Bangladesh in 2007, or “smaller” events like sea water intrusion into fresh water aquifers in Northwestern Mexico (the latter, in part because of excessive mining groundwater from aquifers allows the sea water to intrude where it had been held back by the fresh water “lens”). Though many of these locations outlined in latest edition of Basins and Coasts are far from the North Coast of Oregon, I encourage folks to read it–the lessons are just as applicable here at home. Check it out at: http://www.imcafs.org/coastsheds/. Of particular merit, I encourage a read of Pamela Rubinoff and Catherine Courtney’s piece on evaluating coastal communities for resilience to coastal hazards (including tsunamis).

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