Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Adapting conservation to climate change

Details here of a new report by joint Natural England & British Ecological Society. Key findings:

"[. . .] 1) Climate change adaptation needs to start happening to a far greater extent than currently. It was not difficult to find research into possible adaptation strategies, assessments of vulnerability and plans for implementing adaptation. There are many fewer examples of adaptation that is actually happening.

2) Pilot studies need to be established to help address the uncertainties around determining the most effective adaptation measures, for example on the relative importance of increasing connectivity of habitat networks, compared to improving or enlarging existing sites. Good monitoring and assessment of the outcomes are essential.

3) The issues posed by climate change are different depending on the extent to which climate actually changes. To put it crudely, there is a big distinction between dealing with 2°C and 4 °C of warming. At the lower end of the scale, there is plenty of scope to increase the resilience of the landscapes and ecosystems that we currently have. At the higher end, this will not be sufficient and we need to consider much more radical approaches and be prepared to accept species in very different places and place that look very different.

4) Climate change adaptation needs to be developed as part of a wider transformation in the approach of human societies to the natural environment, in which we understand it better and value it more. [. . .]"

To be fair, these sensible findings may not be wildly surprising to those working in this area. Virtually no one argues that we should pursue either adaptation or conservation, but the general consensus is that some combination of both is necessary. This is because the climate is already changing and so there is an immediate need to adapt to the changing conditions, although most argue that greater emphasis should be placed on conservation (where adaptation is more of a short-term policy to adjust to changing conditions now, but not a strategy for long-term climate change policy).

This is a topic that has occupied me a lot over the last couple years and I'll be posting several new papers shortly (as soon as I can revise them a bit more) on the ethics of climate change, climate change and public policy, and particular criticisms of the co-called environmental footprint approach to climate change.

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