APN/SURVAS/LOICZ Symposium on Impacts of Global Warming and Sea Level Rise and Future of the Coastal Environment:Asia and Pacific Aspect, 17 November 2000, Kobe, Hyogo Pref., Japan

Introduction

The APN/SURVAS/LOICZ Symposium on “Impacts of Global Warming and Sea Level Rise and Future of the Coastal Environment – Asia and Pacific Aspect” was held at the Harborland New Otani Hotel, Kobe, on 17 November 2000. The symposium followed the three-day APN/SURVAS/LOICZ Conference on “Coastal Impacts of Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific Region” (14-16 Nov). Approximately 80 people attended the symposium including conference participants, local researchers and citizens and the media.

The symposium had three keynote speakers and a panel session.

Opening address: Ms. Kazuko Watanabe, APN Deputy Director

Ms. Watanabe opened the session and gave an introductory presentation about APN.

Impact of Global Warming:Prof. Robert NICHOLLS, Middlesex University, UK

Prof. Nicholls described our changing coasts, sea level rise, vulnerability assessments and highlighted susceptible areas and systems (salt marshes, mangroves & coastal wetlands), as well as national vulnerability profiles and selected climate change factors relevant to coasts. Having mentioned these issues, Prof. Nicholls talked about possible human responses to global warming and sea level rise and the adaptation framework for coastal areas.

Impact and Response Strategies to Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in the Asia-Pacific Region: Prof. Nobuo MIMURA, Ibaraki University, Japan

Prof. Mimura opened his presentation with low-lying areas potentially vulnerable to sea level rise. Specifically Tianjin in China and coastal environmental management programs in Thailand. Prof. Mimura then focused on South Pacific Islands (Tonga & Fiji). The physical impacts of sea level rise was addressed, as was the tracks of tropical cyclones.

Future of the Coastal Environment: Dr. Colin WOODROFFE, University of Wollongong, Australia
Dr. Woodroffe emphasised the difficulty of predicting the future of the coastal environment. Woodroffe then addressed the issues of monitoring sea level rise (Pacific Project) and Tidal Gauges and the ENSO effect. He outlined the dynamics of a beach – profile, plan form, mudflat morphology & tidal inlet shape – using science and engineering, and in the utilisation of models. Woodroffe also discussed the human changes of boundary conditions, human perturbation of a system and human action intrinsic within a system. He concluded with the future of the coastal environment, where there will be an ever-increasing body of knowledge, the need for multi-disciplinary/international research, the use of models as possible forecast tools, the desirability for more rigorous testing to determining the cause and the need for caution with emotive-political factors to be considered.

Panel Session

Prof. Roger McLean of the University of New South Wales, Australia, acting as moderator opened the panel session. He reviewed the 3-day conference, the keynote presentations, introduced the theme of the panel “How Does Global Warming Affect the Future Environment in Asia and the Pacific?” and the panel: Nobuo Mimura (Ibaraki University, Japan), Colin Woodroffe (University of Wollongong, Australia), Yoshiki Saito (Geological Survey of Japan), Anwar Ali (SPARRSO, Bangladesh), Sripen Durongdej (Kasetsart University, Thailand) and Leone Limalevu (Department of Environment, Fiji). Prof. McLean then opened the session to the floor for questions. This prompted a lively interactive debate between the audience and the panel.

Dr. Yokoki asked the panellist to outline their respective country coastal environment problems. Dr. Ali talked about the need for adaptive solutions to coastal problems in Bangladesh. He said that people in his country had lived with cyclone threats and floods all of their life, they can adapt. People are part of the solution to coastal problems (public & private enterprise). Dr. Durongdej described Thailand from a human dimensions perspective. Reiterated Mimura’s comments made during his keynote presentation that Thailand’s biggest problem is flooding. The flood problem has been reduced in Bangkok with the construction of dykes, but this has affected farmers in northern areas who are not protected. The Thai government believes that it is of paramount importance to protect Bangkok as an economic centre. There are future plans to replant mangroves. Tourism may however be a future coastal environment problem.

Mr. Shiraishi raised the issue of sea level rise in the Seto inland sea. Prof. Mimura responded with details of the Japanese coastline (length of coastline, number of sandy beaches, etc). He also explained that a one-metre sea level rise would result in the loss of 90 per cent of Japanese sandy beaches. Mimura also outlined the protection of economic centres, such as Osaka and Tokyo, from sea level rise by dykes. Mr. Shiraishi responded by saying that what Prof. Mimura said was true but people should be aware that although Kobe and Osaka may be protected from the sea, other areas are not; such as Shikoku. Shiraishi drew parallels with Thailand and highlighted the need to raise the awareness of people living in unprotected areas. He also stated that you can’t just wait for politicians to take action, they don’t understand the issues, they need to be trained and educated.

Durongdej reiterated the need to educate policy makers while South Pacific Island delegates talked about the importance of raising awareness among local people. Mr. Limalevu explained that you should take into account where you are from. For instance, sea level rise measures are at the hands of the local people who own land in the South Pacific. There may also be occasions for the need to use a top-down approach, such as when there are external factors. For example, pollution from another community, etc. Another issue discussed during the panel session was the transfer of technology. Prof. Mimura explained that sea level technology is in many ways site specific. Japanese technology is suitable for the Japanese environment. Natural methods (mangroves & coral reefs) may be a more suitable method in Pacific Island States. McLean interjected that the transfer of technology is important but we also need to transfer traditional knowledge. Dr. Saito added that the wisdom of the region should be utilised, as should the experience of other regions throughout the world. Durongdej highlighted the importance of inviting policy makers to meetings such as the APN/LOICZ/SURVAS symposium. Prof. Mimura highlighted global warming and the relationship with scientists and policy makers. In particular the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio and the establishment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988. Progress has been very fast. He stressed the importance of providing scientific information to policy makers and the need for politicians to understand global warming issues.

Closing

Prof. McLean thanked everyone for their contribution to the panel session, as well as to the APN for organising the symposium. Mr. Martin Rice, APN Programme Manager, also thanked everyone for their efforts and closed the symposium.

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