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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Spatially explicit robust impact patterns : a new approach to account for uncertainties of long-term sea-level rise impacts at the local level Yip, Zheng Ki (Jackie)


While sea-level rise (SLR) is a certain effect of climate change, there are deep uncertainties about when and by how much. Uncertainties regarding how SLR can impact society at the local level - further compounded by changes in non-climatic drivers, cascading effects, and local contexts – act as a significant barrier to SLR adaptation. Recent literature has called for a shift from using best available predictions to find optimal adaptation options to using scenario-based approaches to find robust options that can perform reasonably under a range of possible futures. In response, this dissertation develops a new approach, the Robust Impact Patterns (RIPs) method, to help decision-makers account for potential SLR impact under hundreds of future scenarios, assuming that no adaptation takes place. The method utilizes the pattern recognition capability of machine learning to transform thousands of modelled SLR impact maps into a small number of impact patterns that are robust across multiple futures, thereby processing an otherwise overwhelming volume of impact information in a spatially explicit and visualized manner. This method addresses the need to account for uncertainties in the early planning stage in order to inform selection of preliminary options to target robust impacts and avoid relying on generic or existing options. An application to the City of Vancouver demonstrated the feasibility of the RIPs method and assessed its practical utility. Geospatial models assessed 14 potential impacts (e.g., business disruption, sewage backup damage potential) in 336 plausible futures that account for uncertainties in future storm intensity, SLR, land-use, power infrastructure resilience, and structural integrity of buildings. The 14 impacts were selected to address the City’s information needs and to capitalize on the capabilities of the RIPs method. Results were synthesized into 16 robust impact patterns (RIPs). City officials and experts, as potential users, were engaged in a structured workshop to discuss the results and evaluate the RIPs method’s capability to support adaptation. The RIPs method was found to be a useful platform for convening multiple types of stakeholders to understand complex SLR impacts, which can facilitate the development of new adaptation ideas, partnerships, and resources for implementation.

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