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Mitigating climate change impacts along the coast using technology

Publication Date: 
Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Climate change poses a serious threat to human development and prosperity, with potentially wide-ranging implications for water, food and energy security, just to name a few. Some of the climate change-related threats are prevalent in many parts of the world, including South Africa, where cases of severe wave storms and erosion have been reported over the years, with the current drought being the most significant threat to the country as a result of climate change.

Contact Person

Tendani Tsedu

+27 (0) 12 841 3417

mtsedu@csir.co.za

Climate change poses a serious threat to human development and prosperity, with potentially wide-ranging implications for water, food and energy security, just to name a few. Some of the climate change-related threats are prevalent in many parts of the world, including South Africa, where cases of severe wave storms and erosion have been reported over the years, with the current drought being the most significant threat to the country as a result of climate change.

“The predominance of climate change will increase the current challenges facing Southern Africa’s harbours, coastal infrastructure and coastal line,” says Dr Christo Rautenbach, CSIR Senior Researcher who is using high-tech instruments, geographic engineering systems and numerical modelling to mitigate the impact of climate change on the coast.

So far, models indicate that one storm event every 30 years is likely to become one storm event every three years due to the rise in sea level, erosion and climate change,” cautions Christo.

Southern African countries have very little adaptive capacity and the ability to halt coastal impacts on a large scale is virtually non-existent. According to Christo, mitigating the negative impacts of climate change requires research directed at an improved understanding of what is happening to our coastline and what is likely to happen as climate change intensifies.

“We need to quantify how much impact climate change will have on our coasts in order to prepare for the losses and damages caused by severe weather conditions,” explains Christo.

It is important to also understand the adaptation options available for the Southern African coasts, which are different from the developed countries approach. Adaptation methods such as sand nourishments, which involve pumping sand on the coastline and growing vegetation near the coast, are some of the methods that can aid the reduction of severe storms, flooding and erosion.

In addition, technological solutions for managing climate change impacts on the coast include the installation of coast cameras that monitor day-to-day activities in the oceans. Coast cameras collect data through digital images and transmit these to domain sites to send information about wave movement, wind speed and direction. Christo cited WaveNetas a technology that monitors real-time ocean waves and weather conditions at various coasts. The wave and weather data on WaveNet is updated every three hours. The information communicated by these technologies is very important in monitoring the impact of climate change in our oceans.

Understanding the coastal environment is crucial for safety, sustainability and coastal development in a data poor environment. In contrast, failure to understand the linkages between the biophysical earth systems, within which man operates in the coastal zone, can spell disaster for even the most robust development or business.

Christo's presentation on 'Southern African Coastal Vulnerability Assessment' is available on the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) webinar. The CTCN is the operational arm of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change technology mechanism, which aims to accelerate the transfer of climate change mitigation and adaptation technologies to developing countries. The CTCN provides technology solutions, capacity building and advice on policy, legal and regulatory framework tailored to the needs of individual developing countries and the CSIR is one of three CTCN representatives in Africa.