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Limitations and Constraints

Research supporting this paper has focused on climate change adaptation practice in the Australasian area. While principles of climate change are generic, relevant tools and approaches are likely to vary across the globe based on varying climatic conditions and natural environments. Geopolitical drivers for climate change adaptation also vary across the globe, and while the recent COP21 agreement in Paris has increased awareness, political focus and investment remains on mitigation rather than adaptation.


We argue that building resilience in coastal natural ecosystems will be insufficient to manage potential future impacts associated with climate change, especially in the longer term. Moving beyond resilience building to more active climate change adaptation for coastal natural ecosystems will require a combination of sound science, clear drivers for change and political will and funding to implement new measures.

To facilitate this move from resilience to adaptation, this paper has presented the foundations for coastal manager to make more difficult future decisions through effective planning and data collection, including:

  • 1. A robust methodology for assessing vulnerability of coastal natural ecosystems to climate change;
  • 2. A toolkit of adaptation options addressing the potential impacts of various climate change parameters, focusing on either Protection, Accommodation, or Retreat; and
  • 3. A time continuum framework for establishing triggers that prompt specific actions and measures to ensure undesirable outcomes are avoided but also that authorities are not leaping to over-adaptation and spending unnecessary resources before the actual impacts of climate change become more certain.

The authors’ experiences have been that the use of the foundations above are practical and can help authorities conceptualise their response to climate change and plan for future action in the longer term timeframes. This is important given the uncertainty around the scale and timing of climate change impacts and the need to develop an adaptive approach to management, which entails evaluation and refinement as better information becomes available over time.

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