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Adapting to climate change
Posted at 9:15am Thursday 29 Jun, 2017
A team of researchers from the University of Waikato have won a $270,000 research grant to engage with New Zealanders about how we can all better prepare for the future impacts of climate change.
The two year research project will also explore how cultural values shape and influence adaptation strategies to the new realities of climate change.
“Climate change is happening whether we like it or not,” says co-lead investigator Professor Debashish Munshi of Waikato Management School, an expert on public engagement and issues of social justice.
“People need reliable, up-to-date information to be able to make important decisions about their future. Yet many vulnerable businesses and communities in New Zealand are struggling to understand how they should respond to the significant threats that climate change poses to our economy, our social fabric, our cultural traditions and way of life,” says Debashish.
The Waikato-based project team also includes co-lead investigator Professor Priya Kurian, a political scientist (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences); Associate Professor Sandy Morrison, an expert on indigenous development issues (Faculty of Maori and Indigenous Studies); and Dr Lyn Kathlene, a US-based expert on public engagement methodologies (Spark Policy Institute).
The team’s extensive research will include a series of ‘citizen panels’ with a variety of business and community groups across New Zealand – such as farmers, small-to-medium business owners, tourism operators, Maori iwi and hapu, and residents living in coastal or low-lying areas – to find out what people already know about climate change, and work on a range of future scenarios to deal with climate change events such as extreme weather, flooding rivers and rising sea levels.
“Successful public engagement in science is not only about communicating information, but also understanding what the public already know, what they need to know, and their different cultural values and attitudes towards climate change,” says Priya.
“For example, we’re conscious of the strong interest that Māori have in debates about climate action and looking at environmental issues, as well as the impact on traditional cultural practices such as weaving and food gathering,” says Sandy.
The research team will help each group to develop proactive strategies and a practical action plan for addressing the specific impacts of climate change they face.
“For some people, climate change is an immediate reality that requires urgent action,” says Debashish.
In 2019, the research team will prepare a report outlining their recommendations for local councils and government, which they hope will contribute to better informed decision-making around climate change adaptation.
The University of Waikato-based project is one of four new climate change adaptation projects announced by the Deep South National Science Challenge this month, totalling more than $1 million in funding. The mission of the challenge is to enable New Zealanders to adapt, manage risk, and thrive in a changing climate.
Debashish and Priya are currently writing a book on ‘Climate Futures’ with academics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This leads on from an international symposium on ‘Climate Futures: Re-imagining Global Climate Justice’ they organised in Italy in 2015, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.
For more details about the National Science Challenge project, visit www.deepsouthchallenge.co.nz/centring-culture-public-engagement-climate-change