Preparing for Coastal Change: A Guide for Local Government in New Zealand

Much of New Zealand’s urban development and infrastructure is located in coastal areas, some of which are vulnerable to coastal hazards such as coastal erosion and inundation. In recent years, coastal development and associated infrastructure have intensified, and property values have increased. As development increases, the potential impacts and consequences of coastal hazards also increase. Managing this growing risk now presents a significant challenge for planning authorities in New Zealand.

Preparing for coastal change provides information to help local government and others across New Zealand strengthen the integration of coastal hazards and climate change considerations into policy, planning, asset management and decision-making.

Climate change effects are gradual, but have implications for many land-use planning decisions. They have long-term implications because of the long lifetime of structures (eg, buildings, roads, network utilities, residential developments). Considering climate change is not only a requirement of the Resource Management Act 1991, it is also wise and good business practice.

The guide comprises three parts:

Part One – The changing climate:

• discusses how climate change affects sea level

• provides guidance on planning for future sea-level rise in New Zealand

• explains the impacts of climate change on other physical drivers that influence coastal hazards such as high tides, storms, storm surge and storm tides, wave climate and sediment supply to the coast.

Part Two – Implications for New Zealand’s coastal margins:

• outlines some implications of climate change for the risk of coastal inundation and coastal erosion

• recommends how to assess these effects

•outlines the implications for salinization of surface freshwaters and groundwater covers, coastal defences and inundation by tsunami

Part Three – Responding to climate change:

• covers the legislative context

• suggests mechanisms for managing, avoiding and reducing coastal hazard risks

• deals with managing residual risk and monitoring change

• discusses some challenges in reducing coastal hazard risk 

California Coastal Erosion Response to Sea Level Rise - Analysis and Mapping

This report documents future coastal erosion hazards and the methodology used to estimate potential erosion, as part of the Coastal Infrastructure and Vulnerability Assessment Project. The study provides estimates of coastal erosion hazards for the California coast from Santa Barbara to the Oregon border. In addition, PWA compiled a statewide base flood elevation layer to support a flood analysis by the Pacific Institute (Pacific Institute 2009). This erosion methodology is applicable to other areas along the west coast of the United States, and was developed to be modular so that updated estimates could be more rapidly accomplished with improved data and refined methods.

Recommendations to the Governor's Subcabinet on Climate Change

The Immediate Action Workgroup of the Governor’s Executive Subcabinet on Climate Change was established to address known threats to communities caused by coastal erosion, thawing permafrost, flooding, and fires. The objective was to close a planning and execution gap identified by Governor Palin and the Congressional delegation by creating a unifying mechanism to assist the communities of Newtok, Shishmaref, Kivalina, Koyukuk, Unalakleet,and Shaktoolik. These communities face imminent threats of loss of life, loss of infrastructure, loss of public and private property, or health epidemics caused by coastal erosion, thawing permafrost and flooding.

These collective recommendations represent an intensive collaborative effort undertaken in an open public forum to address the immediate needs of the State and these immediate actions combined with the policy recommendations were developed to serve as a template and model to assist other Alaska communities in an effective manner as they may become or are impacted by erosion and other natural hazards that seem to be increasing in number and severity.

Climate Change and Security in Africa

As science has revealed that the rate and intensity of climate change is increasing at unprecedented levels, we have begun to realize that it holds potentially serious implications for international security. Analysts argue that climate change—by redrawing the maps of water availability, food security, disease prevalence and coastal boundaries—could potentially increase forced migration, raise tensions and trigger new conflicts.

The imperative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and manage the impacts of climate change present, in the starkest manner possible, our global interdependence. Africa, though the continent the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, is almost universally seen as the continent most at risk of climate-induced conflict—a function of the continent’s reliance on climate-dependent sectors (such as rain-fed agriculture) and its history of resource, ethnic and political conflict. At the turn of the 21st century more people were being killed in wars in this region than in the rest of the world combined.

However, recent years have seen a steady progress in the improvement of Africa’s economic prospects, in the reduction of levels of conflict and in the quality of governance and the number and nature of democracies. The African Union and its constituent regional economic communities, through its security architecture, have developed into key players in the reduction of conflict in Africa. Nevertheless, with its tremendous natural resources and remarkable social and ecological diversity, the continent reflects a close dependency of people on natural resources. It is this dependency and its fragile governance capacities that may present Africa with potentially severe problems in adapting to the future effects of climate change.

In this report, prepared for the Nordic-African Foreign Ministers Forum in Copenhagen in March 2009, IISD examines some of the threats that climate change could pose to security for the continent. These include:

  • Increased water scarcity
  • Decreased food security
  • Large-scale climate-induced migration
  • The impact of climate change on poverty and state fragility
  • Non-linear climate change

The paper also identifies a set of strategies for peace and development in a changing climate:

  • Improve projections and predictions
  • Minimize dangerous climate change
  • Adapt to the impacts of climate change
  • Integrate climate change into all relevant levels of governance

Rising Sea Level Due to Climate Change at Playa Grande

Flooding models under different sea-level rise scenarios are needed to better plan for coastal development and protected areas, in a way such that both marine turtles and local communities benefit. Playa Grande, the most important nesting site of the Eastern Pacific for the critically endangered leatherback turtle, is located in Las Baulas National Park, Costa Rica. It is realistic to expect a 1 m sea-level rise by the end of the century due to climate change. This would imply a 50 m retreat of the beach landwards. Additionally, the high-resolution, digital elevation model reveals that for the most part the inundation of the Playa Grande area will occur from behind. As sea level rises, the water will advance through the mouth of the Tamarindo estuary, and into the surrounding wetlands, inundating part of the land bordering the current mangroves. The future of Playa Grande depends on its ability to retreat as sea level rises and at the same time maintain adequate ecological conditions for the nesting of leatherbacks. This implies that existing and future infrastructure does not hinder the retreat of the beach and that the buffer zone of the national park warrants effective environmental mitigation measures in the light of the future locations of the beach and of the retreat of the mangroves. The law proposal to rectify the boundaries of the park that would reduce its width to a fringe of 50 m would imply that the park would be underwater by the end of the century. The beach would be located inside the proposed wildlife refuge and turtles and their nests would compete for space with houses and other infrastructure. Once the beach retreats against the infrastructure, the wave action against roads and buildings will cause erosion and, consequently, loss of nesting area. In relation to rising sea levels, the proposal to rectify the boundaries of the national park is shortsighted and not precautionary. It would compromise in the mid- and long-term its ecological role as leatherback nesting area, and as such, the very reason for the creation of this particular park. Implementation of adaptation measures to counter the impacts of climate change in turtle nesting beaches is an international commitment under the Inter-American Convention for Marine Turtle Protection and Conservation, to which Costa Rica is a signatory party. With the implementation of such measures, Costa Rica has the opportunity to maintain its regional leadership in the conservation of marine turtles and its status as a world-class reference in biodiversity conservation.

Synthesis of Adaptation Options for Coastal Areas

Climate change is being observed in many of our nation’s natural systems. Estuaries and other coastal systems are particularly vulnerable to many of the projected impacts of climate change. Regardless of future action to reduce emissions, the atmospheric buildup of greenhouse gases has committed the earth to some level of future climate change. Projected effects on estuaries include sea level rise, altered frequencies and intensities of precipitation, increased water temperatures, and more intense storm events. These effects will impact the health of our coastlines, including the people and species that inhabit them.

While not all of these changes will directly affect day-to-day management of estuarine systems, many of them will require some adjustment in management strategies and decision making. Managing for a changing climate is further complicated by ongoing population growth in coastal areas. As estuarine areas face an increasing risk from both the direct and indirect impacts of climate change and the consequences of human responses to climate change, managers will be faced with new and different challenges on top of existing system stressors.Management actions can ameliorate or exacerbate a system’s vulnerability to climate change. Actions taken to reduce impacts or exploit beneficial opportunities resulting from climate change are commonly referred to as climate change adaptation. Consideration of climate change impacts and appropriate adaptation options can help to ensure that managers’ actions reduce risk, improve resiliency, and ameliorate rather than exacerbate the vulnerability of their coastal ecosystems.This guide provides a brief introduction to key physical impacts of climate change on estuaries and a review of on-the-ground adaptation options available to coastal managers to reduce their systems’ vulnerability to climate change impacts. Reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases, referred to as “mitigation,” is a necessary component of the overall response to climate change, and can help avoid, reduce, or delay future impacts. However, this guide focuses on climate change adaptation for estuaries and coastal areas because: 1) estuaries are highly and uniquely vulnerable to climate change, 2) adaptation will be necessary to address impacts resulting from warming which is already unavoidable due to past and current emissions, and 3) adaptation can help reduce the long-term costs associated with climate change.1 For more information on how communities and individuals can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, please visit EPA’s Climate Change Website (

Toward a Greener Future: Nova Scotia’s Climate Change Action Plan

Most of the world’s governments accept the 2007 report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Among its key conclusions is that human activity is warming the planet, with severe consequences. We can expect warmer average temperatures, rising sea levels, and more-frequent extreme storms. Nova Scotia is particularly susceptible to these changes because most of our population lives along the coastline, and much of our infrastructure is located in vulnerable areas. Nova Scotia’s Climate Change Action Plan has two main goals: reducing our contribution to climate change by reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and preparing for changes to our climate that are already inevitable.

NOAA Workshop: Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise in the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Alabama: Research and Modeling Needs

In preparing for the new EESLR program in Florida and Alabama, CSCOR convened a Steering Committee of experts and hosted a workshop to ascertain relevant scientific data and knowledge and to develop an understanding of the environmental management needs in response to long term sea level rise and associated erosion of the Florida Panhandle and Coastal Alabama. The workshop was held on January 23-24, 2008 at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf Ecology Division in Gulf Breeze Florida. Attendees included local and national scientists and managers who identified relevant research questions and information needed to advance knowledge and predictions of interactions among sea level, shoreline change, bathymetry, coastal habitats, and ecosystem effects, and their application to coastal management. From the information compiled at this workshop, the Steering Committee developed this White Paper outlining the consensus of the workshop attendees regarding the requirements for scientific information and predictions and a research strategy for addressing these requirements. The Steering Committee will remain accessible and may be called upon periodically to review the program progress and suggest mid-course corrections.

Buzzards Bay Action Plan: Planning for a Shifting Shoreline and Coastal Storms

For millennia, the Buzzards Bay coastline has been subject to the rise in sea level and storms that have continued to erode and shift materials that change the shape, elevation, and position of the shoreline. These processes shift the locations of barrier beaches and alter wetland areas, resulting in the loss of habitat for certain species, and cause the migration of other habitats like salt marshes. Structures built in these hazard-prone areas can not only impede natural processes, but when they are destroyed in storms, they become hazards to public health and the environment. They can also become a financial burden to government. The frequency and intensity of these processes will likely increase in the coming decades due to climate change. Some state and federal pro-grams are creating moral hazards by promoting development in high-risk areas.

The Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management updated its program plan with goals to prevent, eliminate, or significantly reduce threats leading to loss of life, destruction of property, and degradation of environmental resources that result from improper development. They also sought to limit public expenditures in coastal high hazard areas, allow natural physical coastal processes to continue unabated, to the extent feasible, and prioritize public expenditures for acquisition and relocation of structures out of hazardous coastal areas. Unfortunately, current state, federal, and local laws, regulations, and policies are far from achieving these goals.