Shifting baselines of disaster mitigation

Kimberley Thomas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Large-scale water management systems were introduced to the Ganges-Brahmaputra and Mekong Deltas in the latter half of the twentieth century to manage extreme water hazards and increase food production. However, these systems significantly altered their respective hydrological regimes, often creating worse socio-ecological conditions and greater vulnerability to floods and seawater intrusion than existed previously. Despite this history of disaster experience, climate change adaptation measures in the Ganges-Brahmaputra and Mekong Deltas use contemporary socio-ecological conditions as the baseline for disaster mitigation efforts. Paradoxically relying on old approaches to address future climate threats, disaster planners overlook how current conditions in both deltas are unstable outcomes of historical processes. These cases illustrate that large-scale and capital-intensive climate responses may fail to measurably reduce disaster risk. The concept of shifting baselines, borrowed from fisheries science, becomes helpful for selecting more appropriate reference points for disaster mitigation than current conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalClimate and Development
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019

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disaster
mitigation
climate
fishery science
hydrological regime
food production
fishery
twentieth century
water management
natural disaster
vulnerability
climate change
hazard
threat
food
seawater
water
history
science
experience

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development

Cite this

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Shifting baselines of disaster mitigation. / Thomas, Kimberley.

In: Climate and Development, 01.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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