Adapting to climate change

The CoastAdapt project, which is investigating how local authorities and coastal communities can develop and put into practice ways of adapting to the effects of changing climate, has found that people living in the Outer Hebrides score highly in terms of ‘sense of community, sense of belonging, and caring about people who live here’, and this greatly adds to their capacity to cope with and adapt to change.

The second in the series of three CoastAdapt community workshops is to be held in West Gerinish, South Uist during the evening of Wednesday 4th May.

Measuring the local community’s adaptive capacity or resiliency to forecast climate change related risks and hazards is being carried out by using vulnerability assessments following a bottom-up approach involving local people.

Workshops, interviews and surveys have been conducted during the first phase of the CoastAdapt project involving local residents, local authority officers, public organisations and non-governmental organisations from throughout the islands.

Respondents overwhelmingly said it was very important that knowledge about climate change impacts should be made available to help adaptation to take place, as well as identifying potential adaptation options to the risks and opportunities.

However, the project’s first round of community workshops supplemented by interviews with agency and council officers found that such knowledge has not yet been disseminated to decision-makers on the islands.

This is not different from other local authorities in Scotland where knowledge of future climate change impacts, while available from universities and researchers, has not yet reached decision-makers at the local level.

Climate change adaptation is also relatively new to local government in Scotland and work on climate change at the local authority level has to date mainly focused on mitigation rather than adaptation, that is, efforts to combat climate change such as reducing our carbon footprint in public buildings.

Nevertheless, the Comhairle is working on climate change adaptation through the CoastAdapt project, because many sectors of socio-economic importance on the island are climate dependent – e.g. tourism, crofting, and aquaculture; as well as the Outer Hebrides exposure and sensitivity to sea-level rise and severe storms from the North Atlantic.

While residents and council officers on the islands are very much aware of the threats brought by climate change such as rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and severe storms; gathering knowledge about how these changes will impact over time, and what needs to be done to help safeguard coastal communities, is what needs to be put into action.

The CoastAdapt project, which is part funded by the Northern Periphery Programme, will help communities in the North Atlantic region to understand and become more aware of present and approaching change, as well as enabling them to adapt.

All participating communities in Ireland, Iceland, Norway, in addition to Scotland, have suffered over recent years from the effects of extreme weather such as accelerated coastal erosion and loss of land, coastal and estuarine flooding caused by storm surge and intense rainfall, and structural damage caused by hurricane force winds.

The forthcoming community workshop to be held on Wednesday 4th May in the West Gerinish Community Hall and starting at 7.30pm, will be part of the second phase of the project and all are welcome to attend.

The aim of the workshop will be to involve members of the local community, agencies, and business in the development stage of adaptation activities, reducing risk, and working towards improvements in policy in relation to changing climate held by local government and other agencies.

The workshop will build on findings of previous events held in the Outer Hebrides and in other pilot site regions. Information from the results of interviews and questionnaires will be used as a basis for the content of the workshop and project partners will be on hand.

Opportunities identified during the recent Orkney Archaeological Heritage workshop will also be part of the mix. If you would like more information, please contact David Muir, Project Coordinator at 01870 602425 or at www.coastadapt.org.