International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

Climate change - Is it a root cause?

As described earlier, climate change could be analysed as a transboundary problem but is often not.

Climate change has also been recognised as a significant driver (or root cause) of a number of other transboundary problems – changes in biodiversity, loss of ecosystems, eutrophication, invasive species are all affected by climate change to a great or lesser extent both currently and most probably into the future.

Consequently, the effects of climate change (in terms of cause and impact) need to be well understood to ensure that future interventions are both resilient and adaptive.


Boundaries Between Causes

The 3 categories of causes described above (immediate, underlying, root) are not necessarily discrete from each other. It is useful to consider that they are often component parts of a continuum.

Immediate causes can often be very close to underlying causes, particularly resource uses and practices. For example, the immediate causes of the transboundary problem of reduced fish stocks often involve excessive fisheries effort (or overfishing) and destructive fishing methods. These are as a result of damaging or unsustainable practices (an underlying resource use and practice).

Using the same example, the underlying social and economic causes of reduced fish stocks are often governance failures, particularly around fisheries legislation, regulation and enforcement, both nationally and internationally. These causes are often very close to the root cause of the problem – often a lack of multi-lateral agreements between countries and macro-economic policy development of individual countries. This in turn can be driven by population pressures and demographic change.

The key point to remember is that for the purpose of the TDA, there is likely to be some form of separation of causes to allow for a rigorous analysis, but in reality, causes are often more complicated….