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Combining sciences is critical for effective risk reduction

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Wednesday 10 July 2013, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Suva, Fiji – With the increasing flow of funding into the Pacific region for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation projects, it is essential to combine the perspectives of different sciences for effective outcomes. This is a key message from the Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable currently underway in Nadi, Fiji.

‘There are a lot of people with good intentions who want to do something useful about climate change adaptation,’ says Dr Arthur Webb of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).  ‘But for successful adaptation, we have to combine the sciences.’

‘You can have a technically sound climate change adaptation project, but if you don’t engage the social sciences in explaining activities to the community then the project will be less effective or could even fail,’ says Dr Webb, who manages SPC’s Oceans and Islands Programme.

‘If you have one group of scientists working to inform a community about something and they leave out another group of scientists with different and relevant expertise, then you don’t get the full picture.’

‘On the other hand, there are good examples of community disaster risk and climate change adaptation projects where the application of technical scientific principles is being combined with social science perspectives to ensure that critical aspects, such as communication and livelihoods, are taken into consideration,’ he says.

Associate Professor Sarb Johal from Massey University in New Zealand agrees: ‘It’s no longer good enough to study these issues from one perspective, and indeed some governments are now getting smart about this and saying they will only commission research that can demonstrate that it is taking an integrated approach.’

A similar view is held by Yvan Souares of SPC: ‘Bringing together natural and social sciences is important. If we want to seek effectiveness – rather than just quantity – of activities, then we really need to study in depth the drivers of social mobilisation in the Pacific Islands and Pacific Island society.’

‘Anthropological, ethnological, sociological and even theological aspects need to be considered in carrying out technical risk reduction projects in the Pacific,’ says Dr Souares, Deputy Director of the Research, Evidence and Information Programme in SPC’s Public Health Division – a regional focal point for climate change and health.

Dr Webb also emphasises that project delivery must be done through established development processes, including development applications and environmental impact assessments.

From a national perspective, Jotham Napat, Director of Vanuatu Meteorological Services, agrees, saying that climate change adaptation and similar projects in Vanuatu must go through government and involve government processes and coordination.

The Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable runs from 8 – 11 July and is jointly organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. The meeting is hosted by the Government of Fiji.

Photo caption: Dr Arthur Webb, Manager of the Oceans and Islands Programme, Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC).

For more information contact:
Sean Hobbs, Climate Change Communications and Information Officer, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it +679 753 8426.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 July 2013 09:11  


"What are your plans to assist yourself, your family, friends, community and country address the climate change challenge?”, Dr Russell Howorth, Director of SPC Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC), issued the challenge to the more than 40 international youth delegates from the 23rd Ship of World Youth Programme who attended a special presentation by SOPAC scientists on their work within the region on climate change.

The presentation was held at SOPAC headquarters in Suva. Dr. Howorth said that climate change has gained pre-eminence in the debate on development at all levels, national, regional and global. “The ocean is often referred to as the engine room of the global climate,” said Dr Howorth. "It occupies nearly three quarters (75%) of the earth’s surface and stores most of the incoming energy from the Sun. Not only is the Pacific Ocean the largest physical feature on Earth, here in the SOPAC region over 95% of the environment is the Pacific Ocean."