Memorandum submitted by the British Geological
Geoscience is a critical factor when considering
many of the aspects of sustainable development and global climate
change. Geoscience is key to understanding medium to long term
climate change patterns and drivers. It also provides the basis
for mitigating many adverse impacts.
From an environmental perspective too little
emphasis has been made of global climatic change by DFID or agencies
supported by them. It is important to recognise that whilst many
climate change issues may only influence populations over decades
(and thus may presently attract less attention than development
issues that function on a seasonal or annual basis), the implications
of ignoring them may have severe consequences.
Geoscience must underpin policy development
in relation to the human impacts of issues such as:
Flooding: Vulnerability, and the
extent of the impact of past extreme events, past sea-levels.
Desertification: Pre-historic and
historic changes in vegetation and land use.
Soil Erosion: Susceptibility of soil
erosion and breakdown in diversity.
Groundwater change: Changes in groundwater
levels in relation to changes in precipitation or increased irrigation.
Changes in chemistry related to sea level change.
Coastal changes: e.g. erosion, habitats
and siltation associated with sea level rise.
Contaminant remobilisation: in relation
to sea level rise or changing river discharge.
Ground level change or slope stability:
caused by changing water tables.
Geoscience records also provide unique evidence
of past climate change over time scales from centuries to millennia
and so can give a picture about how natural environments have
responded to past climatic change in a region. Recent work has
shown that many climatic cycles occur over these time scales.
It is important to establish patterns of past global change and
test climatic models used to predict climatic change before policy
changes are made.
In most developing regions, there should be
emphasis on assisting developing nations to adapt to change. In
particular, the emphasis should be on sustainable development
and hazard avoidance, such as:
Habitat and vegetation change.
Coastal vulnerability to extreme
and accumulated normal range events.
Groundwater exploration and protection.
Soil and agriculture degradation.
Practices by which man interacts
with the landscape and marine environment to enhance the consequences
of natural changes.
Understanding which parts of the
world and populations are most vulnerable to expected changes
and planning remedial action within a framework of poverty alleviation.
Large scale naturally induced climate changes,
with significant impact on human populations, have occurred in
the past and will continue into the future. Additionally a pattern
of man-made changes is also likely to occur. Man has a short memory
and for the last few thousand years has lived in a relatively
stable climate. Geoscience indicates that such stability is not
British Geological Survey