Understanding the Cascading Effects of Climate Change for NZ

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The research, “Climate Change: The Cascade Effect Cascading impacts and implications for Aotearoa New Zealand” examines the cascading effects of climate change impacts across sectors: urban systems (provisions of services and exchange in urban areas), water and utility networks (stormwater, wastewater, and water supply), and financial services sector (insurance and banking) and their implications.

The cascading effect of climate change arises because of the interdependencies between natural and socio-economic systems that can strongly affect the community well-being, adaptive capacity of systems and infrastructures, and governance (Lawrence, Blackett, Cradock-Henry, & Nistor, 2018).

Lawrence et al. say, “Cascades affect the ability of individuals, governments, and the private sector to adapt in time before damaging impacts occur.”

The study examined the related literature and empirical studies on the:

  • cascading climate change impacts and its governance implications for adaptation;
  • narratives of cascading effects derived from workshops and interviews conducted which includes the stopbank breach cascades on the Hauraki plains,
  • sea-level rise and coastal storm inundation that caused saltwater intrusions damaging groundwater pipes,
  • drought cascades due to Wellington summer heat that resulted in a record number of leaks in drinking-water pipes, and many other narratives.

The research report’s chapter 4.3 explains the “Systems mapping of cascading impacts.” It shows a causal loop diagram depicting how different types of climate change impacts, whether through extreme events or slowly emerging effects can have similar interdependencies, feedback loops, and generating similar cascades across other domains.

Other chapters discuss the implications on three waters (water supply, wastewater, and stormwater systems)

There has been little research so far on the cascading effects of climate change across human systems and their implications on infrastructure and asset management system.

The research report presents a good understanding of the cascading nature of climate change. It would be useful for governments, practitioners, and asset managers to enable them to design flexible yet robust climate adaptation actions that would reduce and avoid damaging impacts beyond the ability of communities to cope.

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Source citation:

Lawrence, J., Blackett, P., Cradock-Henry, N. & Nistor, B.J. (2018). Climate Change: The Cascade Effect. Cascading impacts and implications for Aotearoa New Zealand. Wellington: Deep South Challenge. Retrieved from https://www.deepsouthchallenge.co.nz/sites/default/files/2019-02/The%20Cascade%20Effect%20FINAL%20REPORT.pdf

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