The SURVAS Project
It is estimated that 21 per cent of the worlds population lives within 30 km of a shoreline. Moreover, coastal populations are growing more rapidly than global mean trends, with a strong focus on urban centres.
There are growing concerns that a global accelerated sea-level rise of uncertain rate will result from human-induced climate change (see figure below). This is attributed to the thermal expansion of the oceans and melting of ice caps, especially land-based glaciers. It is estimated that global sea levels have risen by 10-25 cm during the 20th century.
Global accelerated sea-level rise will be superimposed on local conditions (for example, coastal subsidence) which will, in many cases, enhance this global trend. Even small increases in accelerated sea-level rise could cause major primary impacts on the worlds coastal zones (see table below). These primary impacts will cascade through the coastal system having a range of secondary impacts. Additionally, a range of other effects of climate change will influence the coastal zone and exacerbate accelerated sea-level rise impacts, including rising water temperatures, a decline in sea ice, possible changes in frequency and intensity of coastal storms and more intense precipitation events.
Our existing knowledge on the vulnerability of coastal areas to accelerated sea-level rise is scattered, and far from exhaustive. But all the evidence points to a severe impact potential. This raises fundamental questions that are pertinent to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) about the ability of different nations and regions to adapt to accelerated sea-level rise (a national to regional-scale question), and about the relative need for climate-change mitigation versus adaptation (a global-scale question).
Coastal zones were the first sector where a set of generic guidelines for impact and vulnerability assessment were developed and systematically applied in a number of countries. This first effort started in 1991 and was called the Common Methodology. It resulted in an intense debate about both the approaches and the goals of impact and vulnerability assessment. Subsequently, several distinct methodologies have been developed as attempts to remedy some of the limitations of the Common Methodology.
The SURVAS project
The SURVAS (Synthesis and Upscaling of sea-level Rise Vulnerability Assessment Studies) Project involves a network of international scientists interested in improving our knowledge of the impacts and adaptation to accelerated sea-level rise. The project is coordinated by the authors at Middlesex University in the United Kingdom. SURVAS is primarily sponsored by the European Union, with additional funding from the Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, and is an IGBP LOICZ Project.
The aims of the SURVAS project are:
The SURVAS methodology has been developed with the active involvement of multidisciplinary experts from academic institutions and other national and international organizations.
The SURVAS effort builds upon previous work on accelerated sea-level rise impact assessment initiated by the Common Methodology, and subsequently within a range of country studies programmes (such as mounted by UNEP and the United States), and uses the conceptual framework designed by Robert Klein and Robert Nicholls (Ambio, 28, 182-187, 1999).
Our main objectives are:
There are numerous end-users of the SURVAS project. They are quite varied and diverse, including interests from intergovernmental negotiations to coastal zone management. One key group is that concerned with integrated assessment, an approach shaping intergovernmental policy on mitigation. These top-down approaches need to be validated against bottom-up information such as that generated by SURVAS.
In January 2000, twenty-six experts attended the SURVAS Methodology Workshop from a range of academic and governmental organizations in Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia/Pacific. The workshop considered the proposed SURVAS methodology and discussed possible improvements. The revised methodology resulting from these discussions was successfully tested in four country case studies for Germany, India, Poland and Senegal.
SURVAS Regional Workshop Series
A series of regional workshops are being organized within the SURVAS project in Europe, Africa, Asia/Pacific and the Americas. A final overview workshop will be held in Brussels, Belgium, in June 2001.
The regional workshops on vulnerability and adaptation to impacts of accelerated sea-level rise represent a great opportunity for delegates to exchange relevant experiences on assessment methodologies and coastal management issues. Furthermore, the workshops provide the necessary incentive and framework for country participants to help SURVAS collect the relevant data required to complete the global database. Closer international research collaboration is also an expected outcome.
Prior to each regional workshop, the SURVAS package is sent to the appropriate national contact for completion.
The SURVAS package comprises:
Assessment of the SURVAS package
While all national delegates have so far produced a national abstract/paper for the proceedings, SURVAS appreciates that this package can be difficult to complete. This is primarily due to either the lack of time and resources to compile and analyse the available information, or to the absence of the data in the first place (especially suitable quantitative data).
In many countries, considerable data do exist, although they are scattered. SURVAS aims, therefore, to provide a catalyst for delegates to perform an in-depth national review of available information (for example, for Europe: Ireland, Turkey and the United Kingdom). Concern over climate change, sea-level rise and coastal erosion issues, is growing, moreover, and SURVAS is playing an important role in promoting research on these issues.
The regional workshops are a unique opportunity to identify and report key national/subnational studies, all of which will be integrated in the reference meta-database to be produced within the SURVAS Project. Further, although many countries around the world have not produced a national vulnerability assessment yet, the need for this is widely acknowledged.
The SURVAS package provides delegates with a conceptual and methodological framework within which vulnerability assessment could be considered, and hence stimulates future investigations.
A range of products and publications will be available by late 2001:
By reviewing and providing easily accessible and readily usable data on national to global vulnerability to impacts of accelerated sea-level rise on natural habitats as well as socio-economic assets, SURVAS is fostering a better understanding of one of the major impacts of climate change, increased sea level. SURVAS is further promoting the scientific basis for the capacity building and the policy making process in terms of mitigation and adaptation.
Finally, by its emphasis on adaptation, and integrated coastal zone management, SURVAS is supporting the sustainable use of coastal zone resources, as well as the conservation of ecosystems.
Anne de la Vega-Leinert, Flood Hazard Research Centre, School of Social Science, Middlesex University, Queensway, Enfield, Middlesex EN3 4SF, UK. Fax: +44-20-83625403. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Web: www.survas.mdx.ac.uk.
Robert Nicholls, Flood Hazard Research Centre, School of Social Science, Middlesex University, Queensway, Enfield EN3 4SF, UK. Fax: +44-20-83625403. Email: email@example.com. Web: www.survas.mdx.ac.uk.