Changing Climate, Changing Coasts, Changing Communities: Glocal erosions, risk conceptions and sustainable solutions in Portugal

Changing Climate, Changing Coasts, Changing Communities: Glocal erosions, risk conceptions and sustainable solutions in Portugal

This project aims at exploring the interactions between global climate change and local risk concepts/practices in processes of coastal erosion in Portugal. Such interactions are particularly relevant for Portugal, whose current difficulties with a changing coast will become much more severe in the framework of official scenarios pointing to 18 to 59 cm sea level rise by 2100. The project will take 3 case studies on the Portuguese coast, where previous erosion and flooding are already critical: Vagueira; Costa da Caparica; Quarteira. Although the 3 all have in common economic and tourist-related growth leading to urban pressures over vulnerable coastal areas, they have experienced different mixes of coastal vulnerabilities, presenting a valuable range of options for comparison. An adaptive and community focused approach will be adopted. This is based on the assumption that any shift to a "new" coastline will require trust building between the local people and the coast planners in a process of coproduction of knowledge. The characterization of the selected areas through socio-economic indicators, built environment, public policies and private projects, provide the vital background for this study. The overall aims of this proposed research are:  (a) to study local risk perceptions/practices with impacts on coastal erosion, through careful exploration via specially convened focus groups and direct observation of risk practices, combined with a household survey; (b) to integrate scientific and community driven assessments of possible scenarios of coastal change so as to inform future planning processes and community adaptation arrangements directed towards the building of a resilient sustainable coast, considering social justice issues. The combined scenarios will work as a research tool themselves, being presented to and debated with the population (via direct contact, exhibitions and workshops), as a basis for preparing participatory processes mediated by social and natural scientists. The local impact of the project will be monitored through analysis of media coverage and face-to-face surveys on the populations' risk perceptions and practices. The findings of the research will be the subject of scientific debate and is intended to lead to recommendations for general and local policy. The research strategy will allow the research team: (1) to analyse foreseeable impacts of coastal erosion and climate change on local populations; (2) to confront scientific scenarios with the administrative, media and public's interpretations about on-going phenomena of coastal erosion; (3) to analyse the risk practices/evaluations of different social agents involved in the use and management of the coast; (4) to analyse the expected interactions between such practices/evaluations and the impact of climate change; (5) to unpack the tensions between current planning design of coastal areas and local risk concepts/practices and expectations on the impacts of erosion; (6) to give policy recommendations to stakeholders on how to design a resilient sustainable coast. Considering that current scientific evidence geared to dealing with the effects of climate change on the Portuguese coast derives exclusively from natural sciences, the project is theoretically and empirically innovative in several senses: (1) it performs a research dialogue between social and natural scientists, which provides the social sciences with reliable local impact scenarios, offers the natural sciences relevant social data to be integrated as variables in their scenarios, and allows a deeper analysis of the relations between social and natural factors; (2) it departs from the strong hypothesis that there isn't such thing as a general coastal risk, but a plurality of local risk situations, socially determined; (3) it takes the social construction of risk as an integrated process of perception, cognition, experience and practice, which is also a matter of actively reshaping the relationship with the coast that may include useful tools for adaptation to erosion and flooding in a climate change context; (4) it will produce new knowledge about the relational dynamics of relevant Portuguese localities affected by coastal erosion, which may also reappraise future public policies on the management of coastline. The research team has the proper knowledge and expertise to carry out the proposed project. Indeed, the team members from ICS-UL have been the major source of social knowledge production in Portugal on environmental issues, and they also have a large experience in dealing with sustainable development themes and with risk practices and perceptions. The members from FC-UL are well experienced researchers in dealing with climate change and coastal erosion scenarios. Furthermore the project will be advised by renowned international and national researchers, capitalizing knowledge from projects developed in Great-Britain and the Netherlands.

 

Estatuto: 
Proponent entity
Financed: 
No
Entidades: 
Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia
Keywords: 

Local dynamics, Risk practices, Climate change, Coastal communities

This project aims at exploring the interactions between global climate change and local risk concepts/practices in processes of coastal erosion in Portugal. Such interactions are particularly relevant for Portugal, whose current difficulties with a changing coast will become much more severe in the framework of official scenarios pointing to 18 to 59 cm sea level rise by 2100. The project will take 3 case studies on the Portuguese coast, where previous erosion and flooding are already critical: Vagueira; Costa da Caparica; Quarteira. Although the 3 all have in common economic and tourist-related growth leading to urban pressures over vulnerable coastal areas, they have experienced different mixes of coastal vulnerabilities, presenting a valuable range of options for comparison. An adaptive and community focused approach will be adopted. This is based on the assumption that any shift to a "new" coastline will require trust building between the local people and the coast planners in a process of coproduction of knowledge. The characterization of the selected areas through socio-economic indicators, built environment, public policies and private projects, provide the vital background for this study. The overall aims of this proposed research are:  (a) to study local risk perceptions/practices with impacts on coastal erosion, through careful exploration via specially convened focus groups and direct observation of risk practices, combined with a household survey; (b) to integrate scientific and community driven assessments of possible scenarios of coastal change so as to inform future planning processes and community adaptation arrangements directed towards the building of a resilient sustainable coast, considering social justice issues. The combined scenarios will work as a research tool themselves, being presented to and debated with the population (via direct contact, exhibitions and workshops), as a basis for preparing participatory processes mediated by social and natural scientists. The local impact of the project will be monitored through analysis of media coverage and face-to-face surveys on the populations' risk perceptions and practices. The findings of the research will be the subject of scientific debate and is intended to lead to recommendations for general and local policy. The research strategy will allow the research team: (1) to analyse foreseeable impacts of coastal erosion and climate change on local populations; (2) to confront scientific scenarios with the administrative, media and public's interpretations about on-going phenomena of coastal erosion; (3) to analyse the risk practices/evaluations of different social agents involved in the use and management of the coast; (4) to analyse the expected interactions between such practices/evaluations and the impact of climate change; (5) to unpack the tensions between current planning design of coastal areas and local risk concepts/practices and expectations on the impacts of erosion; (6) to give policy recommendations to stakeholders on how to design a resilient sustainable coast. Considering that current scientific evidence geared to dealing with the effects of climate change on the Portuguese coast derives exclusively from natural sciences, the project is theoretically and empirically innovative in several senses: (1) it performs a research dialogue between social and natural scientists, which provides the social sciences with reliable local impact scenarios, offers the natural sciences relevant social data to be integrated as variables in their scenarios, and allows a deeper analysis of the relations between social and natural factors; (2) it departs from the strong hypothesis that there isn't such thing as a general coastal risk, but a plurality of local risk situations, socially determined; (3) it takes the social construction of risk as an integrated process of perception, cognition, experience and practice, which is also a matter of actively reshaping the relationship with the coast that may include useful tools for adaptation to erosion and flooding in a climate change context; (4) it will produce new knowledge about the relational dynamics of relevant Portuguese localities affected by coastal erosion, which may also reappraise future public policies on the management of coastline. The research team has the proper knowledge and expertise to carry out the proposed project. Indeed, the team members from ICS-UL have been the major source of social knowledge production in Portugal on environmental issues, and they also have a large experience in dealing with sustainable development themes and with risk practices and perceptions. The members from FC-UL are well experienced researchers in dealing with climate change and coastal erosion scenarios. Furthermore the project will be advised by renowned international and national researchers, capitalizing knowledge from projects developed in Great-Britain and the Netherlands.

 

Objectivos: 
The project will research, in 3 areas of the Portuguese coastline jeopardised by erosion, the interaction between: (I) the impact of climate change and other coastal erosion drivers on local populations, (II) the variety of risk concepts and practices through which local agents deal with erosion phenomena. The main objective is to grasp how different interactions between these factors may impact on the sustainability of coastal populations - in order to allow informed policy making and to address the most suitable combinations between prevention and precaution, reactive protection and prospective adaptation. The fulfilment of such a broad objective requires 6 others: (1) to analyse the expected impacts on the selected populations of erosion processes foreseen by climate change scenarios; (2) to confront those predictions with the various interpretations about causes, risks and future evolution of coastal erosion phenomena held by administrative officials, the media, business leaders and local residents; (3) to observe the risk practices of the different social agents involved in the use and management of the coast; (4) to analyse the possible interactions between such practices/evaluations and the predicted impacts of climate change; (5) to open up the tensions and mismatch between current coastal planning and local risk concepts/practices and expectations; (6) to give policy recommendations on how to design resilient sustainable coasts.
State of the art: 
With the onset of global climate change impacts upon coasts, vulnerability to erosion has become a major subject of research worldwide. Portugal is no exception and the drives for erosion are well known: (a) sea level rise; (b) cut-off of the sediment nourishing to the littoral drift; (c) anthropogenic degradation of natural coastal defenses; and (d) hard engineering protection structures [8]. Vulnerability and potential responses have also been assessed at a pan-European scale by European projects [10] and throughout the years by Portuguese researchers [30]. Climate change impact on coastal areas was extensively assessed by current project members in what was, to our knowledge, the first ever attempt to use a scenario-based approach to these issues [2, 20, 21]. Nevertheless, all the evidence dealing with the effects of climate change on coastal areas in Portugal derives exclusively from the natural sciences. The only contribution from the social sciences is the incorporation of socio-economic projections, such as expected growth of population and GDP measures, into the frameworks used by natural scientists. Internationally, social scientists have played a much greater role in coastal zone impacts assessment following the guidelines developed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [18]. But even here there is a consensus that too much attention has been given to physical impacts at the expense of examining social vulnerability, as well as community-based interpretations of coastal erosion risk and adaptation to changing coasts [7].</p><p>Such limitations are even more critical when dealing with a subject like coastal erosion for which the general global scope normally used in modeling processes is unsatisfactory. The coast is a special spot where the global and the local clash. The very same properties of the problem demand a glocal focus [29] with the capacity to project over decades. This requires efforts directed not only to reduce global green house gas emissions: it also demands a careful look at local adaptation issues to increase the current limited social capacity to deal with rising sea levels [17, 13]. The coarse spatial and temporal scales of physical models make most assessments blind to local social factors operating at the level of coastal communities. This constitutes a major flaw in current international literature that this project aims to repair. Only the social sciences may provide a scale downsizing able to grasp local and regional phenomena. This kind of information would be much more valuable to inform policy decisions than large scale studieswith scarce practical application [1]. Also, the common use of &quot;risk society&quot; theory [4] to such threats revealed limitations on the understanding of local communities' role in building specific risk concepts [6] and their adaptation potential [22]. Therefore, this project is distinguished by an integrative approach previously developed by our research group members [12]. When looking at risk concepts and practices, we assume the coexistence of different rational ways to deal with threats. We consider the interplay between different social actors, namely how risks are managed by policy-makers, assessed by scientists, portrayed by the media and perceived and disputed by the public [11]. It is important to take into consideration that the interactions between climate change and the coast are characterized by high levels of uncertainty, which leads locally to an undervaluation of the problem and to its perception as a psychologically, temporally and spatially distant risk [16]. It is thus predictable that any adaptation policy willing to increase its legitimacy by inclusive and participated procedures with intense involvement of local populations in the design of a sustainable coast will face strong oppositions[14]. The focus groups, exhibitions and workshops present in our methodology, will be designed having in mind both the opportunities and dangers present in participatory processes already identified in the literature [5, 19]. The lack of social knowledge on climate change related issues shouldn't be blamed on an experience of limited cooperation between natural and social scientists. We can advance three reasons for why mainstream sociology has been largely oblivious concerning climate change: the marginalization of environmental sociology from prominent sociology journals and training programs; the difficulty of sociologists in assessing future social behavior; the foundational suspicion of naturalistic explanations for social facts inherited from the writings of Durkheim [9, 15]. To overcome such limitations, this proposal, in contrast, builds on the challenge of thinking together with natural scientists in a true interdisciplinary project (see methodology). More, the research group at ICS has been the major source of social knowledge in Portugal on environmental issues. Our scholarship on environmental practices and representations of the Portuguese population will be a major asset when dealing with climate change and coastal erosion [27]. And although there is a gap in the social sciences research in Portugal involving climate change, we are responsible for the only survey of the Portuguese population on climate change [24]. We have been dealing with sustainable development themes for a long time, taking into special consideration its local dimensions. We have already identified how processes of Agenda 21 Local may assume a crucial role in mobilizing populations for more active forms of citizenship practices [25]. Also, in dealing with environmental education projects in Portugal, we pinpointed the overwhelming role of local power in such actions as well as the generalized neglect of coastal themes [26]. For many years we have been taking the environment as a key variable for understanding Portuguese social change [23, 28].
Parceria: 
Unintegrated
Filipe Duarte Santos
Pedro Prista
Tiago Lourenço

CHANGE

Coordenador 
Start Date: 
01/03/2010
End Date: 
28/02/2013
Duração: 
42 meses
Closed