Scenarios for coastal vulnerability assessment



Publication Details

Nicholls, R. J., Woodroffe, C. D., Burkett, V., Hay, J., Wong, P. P. & Nurse, L. (2011). Scenarios for coastal vulnerability assessment. In E. Wolanski & D. McLusky (Eds.), Treatise on Estuarine and Coastal Science: Volume 12: Ecological Economics of Estuaries and Coasts (pp. 289-303). Italy: Elsevier.


Coastal vulnerability assessments tend to focus mainly on climate change and especially on sea-level rise. Assessment of the influence of nonclimatic environmental change or socioeconomic change is less well developed and these drivers are often completely ignored. Given that the most profound coastal changes of the twentieth century due to nonclimate drivers are likely to continue through the twenty-first century, this is a major omission. It may result in not only overstating the importance of climate change but also overlooking significant interactions of climate change and other drivers. To support the development of policies relating to climate change and coastal management, integrated assessments of climatic change in coastal areas are required, including the effects of all the relevant drivers. This chapter explores the development of scenarios (or ‘plausible futures’) of relevant climate and nonclimate drivers that can be used for coastal analysis, with an emphasis on the nonclimate drivers. It shows the importance of analyzing the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise in a broader context of coastal change and all its drivers. This will improve the analysis of impacts, key vulnerabilities, and adaptation needs and, hence, inform climate and coastal policy. Stakeholder engagement is important in the development of scenarios, and the underlying assumptions need to be explicit, transparent, and open to scientific debate concerning their uncertainties/ realism and likelihood.

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