Not a ‘shore’ thing
Photo: Blackpool coastal defenses, copryright AECOM by David Lloyd.
I recently had the privilege of being on a Q&A panel for the film ‘Shored Up’ at Melbourne’s International Environmental Film Festival. The film explored beach erosion and the engineering responses that many authorities use in an effort to protect beaches. It also looked at how sea level rise is exacerbating the problem, and included some before and after footage for Super Storm Sandy.
‘Shored Up’ made me think deeply about the challenge of equity in responding to a changing climate and sea level rise. Put simply, those regions around the world with strong financial capacity will be able to afford to adapt, but the majority of regions will not be able to easily recover from such extreme weather events.
The prioritisation of investment in high-value areas is inevitable. The focus in the short term, however, should be on the development of multipurpose adaptation solutions in coastal areas that are designed to attract investment, build economic activity, and support public recreation and amenity while enhancing the social and environmental value of an area.
This approach to designing adaptation goes beyond just responding to rising tides or extreme weather. Rather, it embraces the broader needs of investment to increase the resilience of our community’s social fabric, environment and economy. AECOM, for example, has achieved great results in re-developing the seawalls in Blackpool, UK, to invigorate economic growth, enhance natural beach conditions and create an active and engaging tourist destination.
‘Shored Up’ was a strong reminder that there are multiple solutions to protecting coastal areas. The question, however, is which areas will be saved and who will pay. The coastal areas that will be protected early from sea level rise will be those that can demonstrate broader benefits from adapting to sea level rise while supporting development opportunities.
Read more about ‘Shored Up’ and the Environmental Film Festival Melbourne.
Michael Nolan is AECOM’s global technical leader for climate adaptation.