Understanding Interactions in a Socio-ecological System Facing Climate Change

By Lezlie Caro Moriniere.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Most socio-ecological systems are exposed to coincident and interacting shocks. Climate change will accentuate individual shocks and heighten interaction among them. The impact of their interactions is likely to exceed the simple sum of singular shocks, thereby seriously challenging adaptive capacity. The concept of interaction, however, is generally missing in scientific inquiry. By nature, interactions span disciplines and are routinely shoved to the fringe of sectorial understanding—often lost between them. Furthermore, even whole system integrated assessment models struggle to quantify their strength. As a first step to understanding interactions, this study inventories hypothesized interactions between 15 impacts of climate change within three separate but interacting systems (climate, natural and human). Interactions supported by scientific literature were registered in a database. Trends were quantified to compare system susceptibility, the force of drivers and system complexity. Results suggest that although the driving force of the climate system as a whole is strongest, climatological events (such as drought or sea level rise) and human mobility have unequivocally destructive force. Degradation surfaces from the analysis as highly complex suggesting implications for sustainable risk reduction and climate change adaptation policy. This transdisciplinary meta-analysis of interactions untangles some of the complexities of a coupled system while bringing new questions to the surface. Aiming for greatest cost-benefit, should science, adaptation and mitigation prioritize the most complex, susceptible and forceful of climate impacts, respectively?

Keywords: Climate Change, Adaptation, Socio-ecological System, Complexity, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Human Mobility, Degradation

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.147-167. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.024MB).

Dr Lezlie Caro Moriniere

Adjunct Research Scientist, Office of Arid Land Studies (OALS), University of Arizona (UA), Tucson, AZ, USA

Having worked in Africa and the Indian Ocean for over 20 years, I returned to academia where I sought to understand climate change and be poised to articulate and help to curb the changes I had been a witness to. With a course load on climatology, my minor was in Global Change and my research focused on the links between climate, environment and human demography. Environmentally influenced mobility (EIM), coupled systems and complexity, therefore, feature prominently in my research. Although I serve as Adjunct Research Scientist at UA, and Adjunct Faculty at Andrews University (International Development Program), I retain professional links to Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) who funded much of my research for my dissertation. I serve actively as an independent humanitarian consultant lending technical skills in Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management to governments, research institutions and civil society.

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