Limits to climate change adaptation in the Great Barrier Reef: scoping ecological and social limits

Authors: Louisa S. Evans, Pedro Fidelman, Christina Hicks, Charlotte Morgan, Allison L. Perry and Renae Tobin
Year: 2012

This study scoped potential adaptation options and limitations that characterise adaptation in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) region. A set of four alternative future climate scenarios were presented to stakeholders from the tourism and fishing industries, NGOs, local and state government, and the research community. Aside from identifying desirable adaptation outcomes for different stakeholder groups, the overall exercise found that limits to adaptation were often identified and discussed as both limits and opportunities – dependant on perspective. However, the findings also suggested that understanding limits in a practical sense is important for evaluating the appropriateness and viability of adaptation strategies under different circumstances. This study identified 5 key ‘bundles’ of limitations affecting adaptation in the Great Barrier Reef: 1) beneficial outcomes in many cases cannot be achieved without a ‘whole of industry’ approach; 2) uncertainty around how climate change will manifest and system connectivity mean that it is difficult to evaluate best adaptation strategies and limit transfer of vulnerability elsewhere; 3) the problem of climate change adaptation relying on private action for public good; 4) perceptions and reputations of people/industries involved can limit adaptation; 5) identifying limits when considering Australia’s economy in a globalised world.

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