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‘It will not be cheap or easy’: Highlights from our chat with Vicki Arroyo

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On Friday, Oct. 5, the TED Conversations community hosted Vicki Arroyo for a one-hour live chat to talk about adapting to climate change — and to share more data behind the story. Read the whole chat — and see some highlights below:

Feyisayo Anjorin asked:

Recently Nigeria’s coastal states has been experiencing fatal floodings. With your experience and expertise; what do you think should be the focus of research institutions in Africa as it pertains to climate change?

Vicki Arroyo replied:

There’s a great deal of work that can be done to develop crops that will survive in new conditions, anticipating the problems of more water stress, for example — my friends Kris Ebi and Joel Smith are doing some of this work in Mali.

The slide I showed of Bangladesh regards a flood warning system that could give advance notice to move people, animals, and equipment out of harms’ way when flooding is anticipated. This was developed in part by our National Center on Atmospheric Research here in the US, but given satellites and other technologies, these techniques can be exported to help in Africa and elsewhere.

For coastal areas, hard questions are being raised about what areas to protect (with levees) or change (e.g.,bstilts) or relocate – and when we plan, we need to think about protecting the critical ecosystems (wetlands, mangroves, and beaches) along our coasts as well. If we just put up walls we will lose many vital ecosystems that we depend on for fishing,etc.

Our own Aja Bogdanoff asked:

I’m wondering if you could share any thoughts about what we could be doing to prepare our coastal airports. You mentioned this in your talk, but are there any real solutions for such massive infrastructure? Should we move the airports? Put runways on stilts?

Vicki Arroyo replied:

I like the runways on stilts idea — but it might be a bit scary to fly into one! Given the incredible economic value of airports, I do not doubt that we will find ways to protect or move some of that infrastructure.

It will not be cheap or easy, but it’s so central to trade, business, tourism, and more. The analysis will have to be site-specific to determine the best options over the long-term. And in the near-term, we should all be asking these questions as airports get renovated and expanded, as is happening now in New Orleans, ironically.