Coastal communities in Ireland face significant and interrelated climate hazards such as coastal erosion, sea level rise and flooding. Since the early 90s it has been recognized that 1500km of the coastline is at risk of erosion with 490km defined as ‘in immediate danger’. More recently, a study by the City and County Managers’ Association estimated that approximately 800 properties could be impacted by erosion over the next fifteen years. We also know that coastal erosion and land loss (as well as inappropriate responses to it) can have significant social and ecological impacts such as damage to beaches and other habitats. Despite these risks, there is no national strategy for managing coastal erosion in Ireland and there is evidence that current management strategies, which involve reacting to major problems as they arise and rely heavily on building new coastal defenses, will become increasingly inadequate in the context of climate change.
However, planning for the impacts of climate change on the coast is complex and uncertain. There are a wide variety of demands on the coast and there are variable risks and impacts between different social groups, places and periods of time. For these reasons, there is a need for planning and decision making to take account of local knowledge and perspectives regarding the significance and value of coastal sites as well as that of experts about projected climate hazards and management solutions. This would allow for an informed discussion of what needs to be protected grounded in local stakeholders’ experiences and needs.
Our research project will address these issues by engaging professionals and community actors in a codesign and coproduction process. This is an innovative approach which aims to engage and support local community members in identifying problems, generating knowledge and ultimately in making decisions regarding what management strategies are feasible and preferable for their area.