The project Climate Change, Coastal and Social – Glocal erosions, risk conceptions and sustainable solutions in Portugal (CHANGE) is a research project being developed at the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon in collaboration with a research team of the Faculty of Sciences of the same university. It runs until 2013 and is funded by the Foundation for Science and Technology (PTDC / CS-SOC / 100376/2008).
The CHANGE project explores the interactions between global climate change, socio-territorial dynamics on the coast and the impact of local risk practices on coastal erosion processes.
The theme is of major importance for a country such as Portugal, whose difficulties in dealing with erosion will worsen in the context of climatic scenarios that point to sea level rise. Moreover, public expenditure on coastal defense is on the rise, a scenario that will be exacerbated by the reduction of EU funds and the financial crisis.
Portugal has developed in the last decades as a coastal country. This is where most of the population lives (80%) and generates most of the country’s wealth (85% of GDP). But it is also one of the European countries most affected by coastal erosion.
With climate change – more frequent extreme events and rising sea levels – current difficulties with a constantly changing coastline will worsen. The official scenarios point to a rise in the average sea level of 18 to 59 cm by 2100, which represents a risk for coastal settlements and for all social life installed in the coastal areas.
The project develops three case studies in Portuguese coastal areas where erosion processes are already critical:
– Vagueira, in the lagoon of Aveiro;
– Costa da Caparica, in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon;
– Quarteira, on the southern coast of the Algarve.
Although these areas have in common recent growth dynamics with strong urban pressure, they present different social profiles and occupancy processes and coastal vulnerabilities, allowing comparative analysis.
The research strategy adopted focuses on local social contexts, assuming that any change towards a new coastal configuration will require adaptive dynamics and new frameworks of interaction between local populations and decision makers. The characterization of these areas in socio-economic and urban terms, public policies and private projects is the starting point for this research.