Policy briefing on Climate Change in Sri Lanka

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 21st Sep 2015
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This briefing focuses on the impact of climate change on Sri Lanka’s rural poor. A great deal has been written on rising sea levels and clean energy in Sri Lanka but, as this paper outlines, climate change also has many other consequences. Rural communities, whose livelihoods are intimately tied to the environment, are profoundly affected by the climate, yet have received little attention in the climate change literature. This aim of this briefing is to help address this shortcoming by, first, setting out the current understanding of climate change and its impacts for Sri Lanka and, second, demonstrating that through immediate government action and community based adaptation the needs of those most affected by climate change can be met.

A PDF version of this version is available here

 

Introduction

• Global warming means more than just rising temperatures: climate change affects all aspects of the climate, making rainfall less predictable, changing the character of the seasons, and increasing the likelihood or severity of extreme events such as cyclones and floods.

• Poor communities face the challenge of adapting to climate change through a process of building their ability to adapt and reducing their vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.

The changing climate

In 2007, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considered data from climate observations across the world and concluded that the evidence for warming of the global climate is ‘unequivocal’. Current projections estimate that the increase in global temperature by the end of this century range will from 1.8 - 4.0°C, predominantly depending on the level of future greenhouse gas emissions. However, these figures demonstrate that dangerous climate change – conventionally understood as a global temperature rise of 2°C or greater – is becoming increasingly likely. And even this picture is evolving rapidly: recent studies suggest that the impacts of climate change may be even more severe and more rapid than those reported by the IPCC at the start of 2007.

Whilst many reports of climate change focus on rising temperature, global warming means more this: climate change affects all aspects of the climate, making rainfall less predictable, changing the character of the seasons, and increasing the likelihood or severity of extreme events such as cyclones and floods. Worse, the impact of these changes are often aggravated by existing environmental problems, such as when deforestation and extreme rainfall combine to produce landslides or floods.

Hitting the poorest first

Far from being an issue that only has implications for energy supply or the environment, climate change touches all the resources that we depend on in life. In particular, the current and future impacts of climate change hurt the well-being of the poor and vulnerable. Climate change puts extra burdens on the social and economic challenges that the poorest already face, emphasizing and increasing their vulnerabilities due to the dependence of their livelihoods on climate sensitive natural resources and their weak social protection structures. By directly eroding the resources that poor people depend on for their livelihoods, climate change makes it easer for people to fall into poverty and harder for the poorest to escape from it:

• Physical resources: Shelter and infrastructure will be damaged or destroyed by sea level rise and an increased frequency of flooding, storms and climate-related disasters.

• Human resources: Malnutrition and the incidents of infectious diseases are predicted to rise with changing weather patterns.

• Social resources: Reduced livelihood security and prolonged or more frequent drought, flood or sea water inundation will lead to the displacement of communities.

• Natural resources: Ecosystems are directly threatened by climate change. Change to the natural environment undermines the poor who depend on local ecosystems for a variety of goods and services, and rely on the productivity of their environment to support agriculture or fisheries. Changes in local ecosystems may require changes to agricultural or fishery practices.

• Financial resources: The repeated failure of crops or loss of infrastructure and homes leads to increased household costs, decline in income, slower economic development and lower livelihood security.

Adaptation to meet the challenge

The scale of the long term impacts of climate change can be controlled through mitigation, the process of reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. However, the effects of climate change are being experienced now. Worse, because of long delays in the climate system, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere today means that further climate change is now unavoidable, regardless of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – meaning that the need to adapt to the impacts is equally unavoidable. Poor communities therefore face the challenge of adapting to climate change through a process of building adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability.

• Building adaptive capacity means incorporating climate change into community-based development and improving the availability of appropriate information and skills, effective institutions, access to technology and opportunities to raise incomes.

• Reducing vulnerability to climate change requires the protection of existing assets (including the ecosystems on which communities depend), improved risk management, increased assets and broadening the available range of livelihood options.

The challenge is simultaneously to protect existing livelihood assets against the new risks posed by climate change, whilst securing more assets that can be accessed to help cope with the disruption and change that climate change will bring.

Structure of this paper

Following this introduction, the middle section of the paper considers climate change in more detail. Regional and national data are reviewed to provide summaries of recent climate change observations, the expected climate changes over the coming century, and the implications for those living in Sri Lanka. The next section explores the process of adaptation, emphasising that efforts should focus on the needs of those most affected by climate change. The principals of community based adaptation are then outlined and illustrated through examples of Practical Action’s experiences. Finally, the paper concludes with a review of the key messages for those responsible for addressing the impacts of climate change in Sri Lanka.

 

Climate change in Sri Lanka

• Climate change is likely to bring particularly rapid temperature increases in Sri Lanka – faster than the average global rate of warming.

• Winter temperatures will increase more than summer temperatures. The level of winter rainfall is expected to decrease, whilst summer rainfall will increase.

• Extreme weather events such as heatwaves and very high rainfall are likely to become more frequent. Cyclones are anticipated to increase in strength.

Some level of uncertainty is inevitable in measuring and anticipating climate change. Attributing individual current events to climate change is impossible due to inherent climate variability, whilst a lack of observations over a sufficiently long time frame or narrow geographical area can hamper the analysis of climate trends. However, the degree of certainty over all aspects of climate change has increased in recent years, and in particular between the publication of the IPCC’s reports in 2001 and 2007.

As a result, there is now higher confidence in climate projections, including regional-scale warming, wind patterns, precipitation and some aspects of extreme events. Country-scale trends and projections, however, remain difficult to discern and as a result there have been many more studies focussed on South Asia than on Sri Lanka. However, many regional observations and predictions have particular relevance for Sri Lanka and are therefore included in the following summary of current and future climate change and the associated impacts.

The following is drawn predominantly from the IPCC’s 2007 report but also relies on the proceedings of the March 2007 National Conference on Climate Change (Kukuleganga, Sri Lanka), Sri Lanka’s Initial National Communication (2000) and Practical Action’s own local experience.

Climate change today

The South-Asia region is broadly defined by the IPCC as consisting of Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and the Tibetan Plateau. However, the whole region has large climate variability, making climate change harder to identify and meaning that the current level of understanding of how the climate is influenced by human activity is low. Despite this, climate anomalies and changes in extreme events and El Niño frequency have been observed throughout the region, with intense rains and floods, droughts and cyclones/typhoons reported. Notably, the frequency of monsoon depressions in the Bay of Bengal has decreased since 1970, but the intensity is increasing resulting in severe storm damage.

In Sri Lanka, more gradual year-on-year changes in temperature have also been observed:

• A temperature increase of 0.016°C per year between 1961 to 1990.

• Night time annual average temperatures have increased more quickly than daytime, up to a maximum of 0.02 °C per year.

• Variability of annual and seasonal rainfall has increased significantly during the last few decades, particularly for the northeast monsoon (December to February).

The results of these climate extremes and changes have been felt in the form of multiple impacts in Sri Lanka.

• Variability of rainfall in both the summer and winter monsoons is such that rainfall can no longer be relied on to fall as traditionally anticipated during the growing season, and has led to both drought and flooding, reducing crop yields. High rainfall events can also wash away productive topsoil.

• Increasing temperature has also reduced crop growth – both directly (most crops, and particularly rice, are operating near the top of their temperature tolerance in Sri Lanka, so any temperature increase threatens yields) and indirectly (increased temperature increases evaporation, in turn increasing water stress).

• The incidence of diarrhoeal diseases and other infectious diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, malaria and dengue fever is expected to increase due to severe floods, rainfall and droughts in combination with poverty, poor access to safe water and poor sanitation. High temperatures and poor hygiene contribute to bacterial proliferation.

Climate change predictions

The temperature projection for Asia is for warming to accelerate. The rate of warming in the South Asia is projected to be significantly faster than that seen in the 20th century, and more rapid than the global mean rate of warming. However, rainfall and temperature changes will be seasonal. Throughout South Asia, warming during December, January and February is expected to be at its greatest and associated with a decrease in precipitation, whilst the consensus of regional models is that summer rainfall will increase. Extreme weather events are also projected to increase in frequency throughout the region, including heatwaves and unusually heavy rainfall. Tropical cyclone intensity is expected to rise by 10 - 20% for sea surface temperature rises of 2 - 4°C.

National level modelling, undertaken by the Sri Lankan Centre for Climate Change Studies, suggest that the changes in Sri Lanka broadly – but not completely – follow the regional expectations:

• The regional temperature trends are played out in Sri Lanka. By 2100, the temperature during the southwest monsoon season (May to September) is anticipated to be 2.5 °C, whilst the northeast monsoon season (December to February) is expected to yield a temperature increase of 2.9 °C.

• Rainfall is slightly different to the regional trend, with Sri Lanka’s increases in rainfall levels anticipated in both summer and winter seasons. However, the rainfall change is expected to be greater during the southwest monsoons (May to September) than northeast monsoons (December to February).

• In both seasons, rainfall and temperature is projected to increase with time, from 2025, 2050 to 2100.

• Rainfall changes are also uneven across Sri Lanka – much greater increases are expected on the windward side of the central hills.

The projections quoted above assume ‘medium’ levels of greenhouse emissions continue throughout the next century. However, it is important to understand that the results of climate projections vary significantly depending on whether high or low future global greenhouse gas emissions are assumed. High emissions scenarios, in which rapid, fossil fuel-intensive global economic growth is achieved over the coming century, produce anticipated temperature increases of greater than 5-°C in South Asian during December, January and February by the end of the century. On the other hand, low emissions scenarios, in which the use of natural resources is assumed to reduce and clean, resource-efficient technologies are introduced, yield a temperature increase of less than 3°C. The implication is clear – large cuts in carbon emissions and radical changes in global patterns of consumption, particularly in the West, will be required to prevent climate change from bringing catastrophic changes across South Asia.

Future impacts and vulnerabilities

• The most profound impacts of climate change in Sri Lanka will be in agriculture and food security, water and coastal resources, biodiversity changes, and human health.

The IPCC offer the following summary of the vulnerability of key sectors in the South Asia region. In keeping with the IPCC approach, the summary reports both the degree of vulnerability and the level of confidence. The South Asia region has the highest proportion of ‘highly vulnerable’ sectors of all the Asia sub-regions.

Agriculture and food security: Overall crop yield (wheat, maize and rice) could decrease in South Asia by up to 30% by the end of this century (compared with an increase of up to 20% in East and South East Asia). Most Sri Lankan crops, and particularly rice, are produced at the top end of the optimum temperature range for cultivation, meaning that the anticipated increases in temperature could have a profound effect on yields. Estimates suggest that rice yield could be reduced by nearly 6% for a 0.5°C temperature rise – equating to a reduction in GDP of 0.2%. Areas affected by salt water intrusion – an increasing problem as the sea level continues to rise – will experience much greater losses as paddy salinity increases. Higher temperatures will also increase the evaporation of water content from soils, leading to water stressing in upland crops in particular. Higher night time temperatures are likely to impair tuber crop development (particularly potato) and decrease the sugar content of harvestable fruits. Even small reductions in rainfall are anticipated to cause a several fold decrease in ground water replenishment, with severe implications for intensive, lift-irrigation dependant agricultural production in Sri Lanka’s sandy soil regions (Kalptiya and Jaffna Peninsula). Soil erosion, and in particular the loss of productive topsoil is also likely during high rainfall (greater than 25mm per hour) events. Global climate change and the increased frequency of ENSO events affect the migration routes and numbers of fish larvae currently present in South Asian waters and as a result a general decline in fishery production is anticipated across the region. However, predicting fish stocks is complex: changes in ocean current, sea level and salinity, wind speed and direction, strength of upwelling, mixing layer thickness, and the response of predators to these multiple factors will all contribute to future availability of fish supply. Water resources: All future emissions scenarios predict increasing water stress in South Asia, with the effects being felt as early as 2020. In Sri Lanka, overall rainfall volumes are greater than the total demand for water – however, the demand is unevenly spread with areas in which water supply is already insufficient to meet needs. As temperature increases, increased evaporation will drive up the demand for irrigation water, contributing to water scarcity. Increases in high rainfall events will increase soil erosion, which in turn accelerates the silting up of existing reservoirs, further contributing to water stress.

Costal/ low lying areas: All costal areas in Asia are currently facing increasing stress with threats to human and environmental resilience. However, rising sea levels will have further, major impact on costal and low lying communities in South Asia. The most conservative climate change scenarios predict a rise in sea level of 40cm by the end of this century, which will increase the annual number of people affected by flooding in Asia from 12 million to 94 million, with almost 60% of these people living in South Asia (including the coastlines of Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh). Sea level rise scenarios for Sri Lanka suggest a shoreline retreat of 10m by 2050. Ecosystems and biodiversity: Up to 50% of biodiversity it a risk from climate change across Asia. In South Asia, grasslands are particularly under threat and large decreases are likely as temperatures rise and evaporation increases. Sea level rise and surface temperature rise threatens coastal ecosystems, rich in biodiversity, whilst coral reefs are at risk of bleaching from higher temperatures. Sea level rise also leads to salt water intrusion into estuary and lagoon systems, threatening these habitats.

Human health and migration: Increasing temperatures are likely to yield a spread in insect borne diseases, whilst warmer sea-surface temperatures support phytoplankton blooms that are the breading ground for bacterial diseases such as cholera. Flooding, precipitation rise and sea level rise will all pollute surface water, leading to an increase in cholera, diarrhoeal and skin diseases, whilst increases in the epidemic potential for malaria (12-27%) and dengue fever (21-47%) are anticipated. Migration following extreme weather events is also to be anticipated.

 

Adaptation: Responding to the threat of Climate Change

• Adaptation must focus on the needs of the people most affected by climate change impacts and aim to secure their livelihoods and reduce the most significant hazards they face.

• Identifying communities’ own priorities and needs, and valuing their knowledge alongside science-based knowledge is key to development of sound adaptation strategies.

• The primary role of governments is in developing policies that are enabling for local-level action. However, important adaptation activities, such as management of increasingly scarce water resources, will require coordination and investment at the national and intergovernmental levels.

Climate change is currently causing increased hardship on rural communities throughout Sri Lanka. Moreover, current global levels of greenhouse gas pollution mean that the impacts of climate change are now set to worsen over the coming decades regardless of future emissions. However, whilst the most profound impacts of climate change may still be some years away, our understanding of future climate scenarios means that actions to help prepare communities can be taken now. Importantly, strategies that build community’s ability to adapt to climate change can and must be undertaken now: it will be too late to act once the last crops have failed.

Strategies for adaptation need to focus on the needs of the people most affected by climate change impacts and aim to reduce the most significant hazards they face. Identifying communities’ own priorities and needs, and valuing their knowledge alongside science-based knowledge is key to development of sound adaptation strategies. Sharing experiences, obstacles and positive initiatives with other communities and development policy-makers must be an integral part of national adaptation strategies. The primary role of governments and international processes is in developing and implementing policy that is enabling for local-level action. However, some important adaptation activities, such as management of increasingly scarce or flood prone water resources, will require coordination at the regional and intergovernmental levels.

To ensure a positive impact on the most vulnerable communities, climate change adaptation should support the development of community based systems of adaptation based on sustainable livelihood options and sound management of ecosystems through strengthening capacities, skills and institutions to react and adapt to climate generated changes. More specifically, climate change adaptation strategies should:

• Begin with vulnerability assessments based on strong gender analysis to focus on the most vulnerable and their needs within the communities and to identify and reduce the most significant vulnerabilities they face.

• Value the knowledge and strategies that the poor are already using to cope with climate change and use this as a basis to identify priorities and define action.

• Empower communities to participate in the development of climate change sensitive interventions and policies, ensuring effective interaction between decision-makers and planners from key climate change affected sectors in both government and donors’ structures.

• Facilitate delivery of resources, support and services to community level, including information, skills, technology, finance and basic services and activities aimed at Disaster Risk Reduction.

• Require agriculture, energy, transport and health departments of Government to undertake an analysis of predicted climate change and how it impacts on their sector.

• Ensure that risks related to climate change and community-based responses to adaptation are mainstreamed into the most appropriate planning frameworks and development plans (including PRSPs).

Community based adaptation - reaching Sri Lanka’s rural poor

Climate change will have a significant impact on Sri Lanka’s rural farmers. The impacts will force profound lifestyle changes and destroy livelihoods if communities are not made aware of climate change and supported in finding ways to adjust. However, through community based adaptation, there is much that can be done:

• Awareness of climate change is a key pillar of community based adaptation. Active participation in workshops, meetings and events that have been organised within communities can allow them to relate their own experiences to climate change and understand how future weather patterns may differ to those they have known in the past.

• Action on adaptation can produce benefits now and in the future. Many adaptation activities help to provide communities with diversified livelihoods, alternative sources of income, or better infrastructure. Such ‘no regrets’ strategies are attractive as they have immediate positive impacts whilst also supporting the ability of communities to adapt to climate changes in the future.

• Adaptation can be made more effective by focussing on two existing areas of policy: disaster risk reduction and supporting livelihoods. When undertaken through community organisations, these overlapping activities address key climate vulnerabilities and build capacity to deal with future challenges.

Examples of Practical Action’s experience with community based adaptation in Sri Lanka are provided in the following section, and demonstrate how low cost interventions can make a huge difference to those most affected by climate change. However, whilst local community based interventions are an essential aspect of adaptation, there is also an urgent need for adaptation planning and investment across all sectors of government. Large scale food shortages, increasing water stress, land loss and salt water inundation due to sea level rise, and increased incidence of vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are all examples of anticipated climate change impacts that need planning for now. Government at all levels needs to support both community based adaptation and, together with communities, develop and implement strategies that respond to the wider and larger scale implications of climate change.

 

Practical Action’s experiences of community based adaptation

Participatory research using traditional rice varieties: For rice farmers in the Hambantota district of southern Sri Lanka, increased salinity in their water-logged fields was a significant problem, with yields dropping steeply. Some were getting less than half the expected yield. The farmers could not find a viable solution for the creeping salinity - aggravated by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and a lack of fresh irrigation water. They feared that eventually their fields would be left barren. However, forgotten types of indigenous rice can offer a home grown solution to the increasing soil salinity. There are around 2,000 traditional rice varieties in Sri Lanka. Many are very high in nutritional value and have medicinal properties, and most are resistant to extreme drought conditions, diseases and pests. These varieties were traditionally grown using natural inputs such as organic manure, and no chemical fertilisers or pesticides were used. Farmers have worked with Practical Action on a number of trials on various rice varieties to see if they could withstand salinity.

Seventeen local farmers in Hambantota district trialled ten different varieties of traditional rice through a programme of the National Federation of Traditional Seeds and Agri Resources and supported by Practical Action. For the first time, the farmers were given the choice of ‘variety selection’ and asked to score the different rice types according to duration of crop, plant height, grain quality and yield. Out of the ten, four varieties scored highest and were then promoted through farmer organisations as hardy, saline tolerant and high quality rice that were suited for coastal rice paddies. This participatory approach to research has enabled marginalised farmers to adapt to the changing conditions. Although traditional rice does not produce the yields of hybrid varieties, farmer profits remain high. Traditional rice requires only organic manure and is purchased at a higher price by the Federation – there is high consumer demand for these rare rice types. Moreover, the application of organic fertilizer has begun to ease the soil salinity problem as well. One local farmer’s comments reflect the success of the scheme:

“We were on the verge of abandoning our fields. The introduction of traditional rice has given a new lease of life to us and these fields.”

Reducing costal zone hazards: Sea level rise has led to coastal erosion, inundation of lands and salt water intrusion, whilst coral reefs and costal wetlands are also threatened by the increased severity of tropical storms. Practical Action has worked with district and national governmental and non-governmental organisations in Sri Lanka to share information and raise awareness of changing costal hazards in communities, households and schools. These meetings have generated community based environmental conservation and management programmes to help protect the threatened regions. This work has focussed on creating a ‘coastal green belt’, with 800 families involved in planting at 5 locations. However, whilst the work has demonstrated the potential for community based ecosystem projects and raised awareness of climate change and its impacts, challenges remain. In particular, low plant survival rates in the harsh conditions are not unusual, whilst planning and coordination on a large scale will be required to plant and maintain vegetation on the scale required for green belts to provide effective protection.

These examples of community based adaptation demonstrate that support for communities facing climate change can be provided now, and at little cost. New farming techniques or alternative seed varieties are low-cost changes that can directly address the threat to the livelihoods of the rural poor. Whilst these strategies provide for improved livelihoods for the communities involved, they are ‘win-win’ approaches to adaptation as they also target the twin goals of community based adaptation: building adaptive capacity and reducing vulnerability.

Community based adaptation also emphasises the need for communities to understand that climate change means that traditional responses to climate variation may no longer be sufficient when long term shifts in temperature and rainfall are predicted. Women, who frequently play a key role in natural resource management, are central to ensuring that the impacts of climate change are properly understood. By building on their understanding of the climate and their environment, and by sharing their experiences with others, communities are able to develop their own strategies for climate change adaptation. Local and national government policy is therefore needed to support the communities in this process of defining and achieving their own goals.

 

Summary of recommendations for Sri Lanka

Policy makers from all sectors urgently need to focus attention on the implications of climate change. Support for adaptation to the impacts must start now. Many aspects of climate change and variability are already having a profound effect on the livelihoods of poor rural communities, and enough is known about the future impacts of climate change for action to be taken now. The vulnerability of the poorest to climate change is a central challenge and ‘no regrets’ adaptation options, which focus on poverty relief through diversifying livelihoods and extension support for sustainable agricultural systems, must be a priority.

In particular, action is required in the following areas:

Central government

Issue:

• Climate change is not just an issue for those in government with responsibility for the environment.

Recommendations:

• All government departments must acknowledge the importance of climate change and analyse the impacts for their sector. Disaster planning and risk reduction strategies must account for the new challenges of climate induced disasters.

• Central government will need to support decentralised policy development so that appropriate adaptation activities can be planned and to prevent the imposition of ‘one size fits all’ solutions. National level activities need to support the distribution of resources and extension services to the local level, training and awareness raising in communities, research for technology generation, information provision, and take forward international lobbying.

Water management

Issue:

• Increasing water scarcity, in particular driven by increased irrigation demands due to higher rates of evaporation, is likely. Extreme rainfall events, which are predicted to increase in frequency, will bring no relief, instead washing off valuable topsoil and silting up reservoirs that may otherwise have stored water.

Recommendations:

• The Ministry of Irrigation and Water Management should examine the capacity and location of reservoirs and tanks to take advantage of more intense and shorter rain periods. Mechanisms to stop silting of current tanks by erosion due to heavier rainfall should be investigated, including adaptation measures such as growing trees around tanks.

• The Ministry of Water Supply and Drainage should look at the current and future water supply needs of communities. The collection of water through rain harvesting technologies should be promoted in the communities that will be most affected by water shortage. The use of wells should also be encouraged, for example through taxes not being applied to informal water sources.

Agricultural policy and extension support

Issue:

• Agriculture will be particularly hit by climate change, threatening the livelihoods of Sri Lanka’s rural poor and undermining food security across the country. Estimates suggest that rice yield could be reduced by nearly 6% for just a 0.5°C temperature rise, whilst salt water intrusion creates greater losses as paddies salinity increases. Water stress on crops is likely to increase, and for upland crops in particular. Even small reductions in rainfall are anticipated to cause a several fold decrease in ground water replenishment, with severe implications for intensive agricultural production in Sri Lanka’s sandy soil regions.

Recommendation:

• Ministry of Plantations should study the affects of climate change on tea, rubber and coconut plantations, whilst the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Agrarian Services Development should look at using different varieties of seeds.

• Ministries should utilise local knowledge and work with farmer communities and national farmer federations when working on options for adaptation. These should take into account the different needs of communities and the different challenges which will have to be faced, from rising temperatures and drought to saline intrusion. Local knowledge should also be used to identify changes in cropping seasons, whilst irrigation management should be explored with farming communities to help avoid drought.

Health

Issue:

• Flooding, precipitation rise and sea level rise will all pollute surface water, leading to an increase in cholera, diarrhoeal and skin diseases. Increases in the epidemic potential for malaria and dengue fever are also anticipated.

Recommendation:

• Ministry of Health to examine which areas of Sri Lanka will be affected by what types of health impacts from climate change. The Ministry should publicise potential impacts and develop knowledge at community level on climate change health impacts and solutions.

Coastal low lying areas

Issue:

• Coastal and low lying areas will face the brunt of climate change in the form of sea level rises. Not only will this lead to further erosion and loss of land, but also to the loss of livelihoods and possibly migration from these areas. As a large amount of economic activity and population lives in coastal areas, the impact of sea level change will be profound.

Recommendation:

• Areas affected by sea level rise need to be outlined and the affected communities informed of the consequences of living in these areas. Programmes need to be set up to help communities change or adapt their livelihoods, for example through tourism for communities whose livelihoods are based around coral reefs.

• Communities should be helped to protect coral reef systems, which help stem the erosion of coastal areas. The government needs to ensure regular and systematic water temperature monitoring and, if necessary, the establishment of temperature resistant coral species needs to be examined.

Ecosystems and biodiversity

Issue:

• Ecosystems and biodiversity are essential to supporting rural livelihoods and a rich biodiversity is central to providing options for adaptation. However, grasslands are particularly under threat from climate change, whilst sea level rise and surface temperature rise threatens coastal ecosystems, rich in biodiversity, and coral reefs are at risk of bleaching from higher temperatures. Sea level rise also leads to salt water intrusion into estuary and lagoon systems, threatening these habitats.

Recommendation:

• Communities should be supported to protect ecosystems and biodiversity. Home gardening in communities, for example, can be promoted to protect indigenous plants. Government and non-governmental organisations should work together to provide capacity building in ecosystem management the sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services, and promote consultation between different stakeholders.

• Awareness raising amongst teachers and school children on biodiversity conservation and climate change issues should be promoted.