EQUITY AND THE BLUE ECONOMY

Lack of understanding of ocean risks can worsen inequities

In March 2019, Mozambique was hit by cyclone Idai which caused havoc to many coastal communities. Photo: Denis Onyodi for IFRC/DRK/Climate Centre via Flickr.

Ocean-related risks are not well understood in the region which might be hardest hit by them, Sub-Saharan Africa, concludes new review

Story highlights

  • A research team looked at tools available to measure risks and vulnerabilities, and found significant gaps
  • Few studies properly analyse the interlinkages of risks and possible cumulative impacts
  • The researchers recommend investigating compound and interconnected ocean risks by means of modelling approaches such as fuzzy logic

KNOW THE RISK: Many coastal countries and island states in Sub-Saharan Africa depend highly on the ocean as fisheries and tourism are essential parts of their economies.

These sectors, in turn, are susceptible to degradation in marine and coastal ecosystems, climate change, and to societal shocks, as the Covid-19 pandemic has shown.

“The future of the ocean economy depends on our ability to navigate, mitigate and adapt to climate change and other environmental and socioeconomic shocks and their interlinked impacts,” says Kanae Tokunaga from the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, who is the lead author of a recent review on the topic.

Lack of data and studies

But how vulnerable is the ocean economy in these countries? And how high are the risks?

In many cases, we don’t know, concludes a recent review by an international research team commissioned by the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance, ORRAA.

The future of the ocean economy depends on our ability to navigate, mitigate and adapt to climate change and other environmental and socioeconomic shocks and their interlinked impacts.

Kanae Tokunaga, lead author

The team looked at the tools available to measure risks and vulnerabilities, and found significant gaps, both in terms of what previous studies have assessed and what data is available.

“The lack of studies and insufficient data for Sub-Saharan small island developing states and coastal least-developed countries poses a significant challenge for this region to prepare for and manage future risks”, explains co-author and centre researcher Robert Blasiak.

Most studies so far have focused on climate change but not other shocks. And while most studies have considered multiple risks, few properly analyse their interlinkages and possible cumulative impacts.

In addition, the authors advocate for regular surveys in data-poor regions. Otherwise, our uneven understanding of ocean risks may exacerbate existing inequities.

Approach to data-poor settings

In the meantime, they recommend investigating compound and interconnected ocean risks by means of modelling approaches such as fuzzy logic, which allows imputing estimates where data is limited. This approach can better account for gaps and unevenness in datasets, allowing greater understanding even when dealing with data limitations.

“Such an approach should be explored as part of future studies and may be particularly relevant in investigating climate change hazards in data-poor regions where nature and people stand to be the most affected by change under contrasting scenarios,” the authors conclude.

This project was supported by the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) and was funded with UK aid from the UK government.

Read: Indicator-based tools for assessing ocean risks and vulnerabilities

Published: 2022-12-16

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