The Project

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Changing Climate, Changing Coasts, Changing Communities

CHANGE - Changing Climate, Changing Coasts, Changing Communities – glocal erosions, risk conceptions and sustainable solutions in Portugal is a research project from the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, in collaboration with a research team from the Faculty of Sciences, of the same university. The project runs until 2013 and is funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (Project Reference: PTDC/CS-SOC/100376/2008).

CHANGE explores the interactions between global climate change, social and territorial dynamics in the coastline and the impact of local risk practices in coastal erosion processes.

The theme is of utmost importance for a country like Portugal, whose difficulties in dealing with erosion will get worse according to the climate scenarios that point to a rise in sea level. Moreover, public spending on coastal defense has increased, a scenario that will worsen with the reduction of EU funds and the current financial crisis.

Portugal has developed in recent decades as a coastal country. This is where most of the population lives (80%) and where most of the country’s wealth is generated (85% of GDP). However, it is also one of the European countries most affected by coastal erosion.

With climate change - more frequent extreme events and sea level rise - the current difficulties in a changing coastline will tend to get worse. The official scenarios point to an average sea level rise of 18 to 59 cm by 2100, representing a risk to coastal populations and the entire social life established in coastal areas.

The project focuses on three case studies in Portuguese coastal areas where erosion processes are already critical:

- Vagueira, in the Aveiro region;

- Costa da Caparica, in the Lisbon metropolitan area;

- Quarteira, in the Algarve southern coast.

Despite having in common recent growth dynamics with a strong urban pressure, these areas show different social profiles, occupation processes and vulnerabilities, allowing comparative analysis.

The research strategy adopted focuses on local social contexts, assuming that any change towards a new coastal configuration will require an adaptive dynamics and new interaction frameworks between local populations and decision makers. The socio-economic and urban characterization of these areas, as well as the existing public policies and private projects is the starting point of this research.