Local Environment: The International Journal of Justice and Sustainability
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Several Torres Strait communities have significant infrastructure and sacred sites located only a few metres above sea level. As a consequence, these areas are vulnerable to erosion due to the projected increase in storm surge intensity caused by climate change. Common sense suggests that Islanders would welcome new scientific research about how climate change might affect them, in order to understand the significance of these impacts and the timeframes involved. However, one leader has taken a seemingly counterintuitive stance, and has refused to let new climate research occur. We explore why this position was taken, and the implications of this decision for ongoing scientific research. In order to carry out this analysis, we provide a contextual background by assessing Islanders’ recent experience with scientific researchers, and the response of policy-makers to it. We find that despite a clearly documented problem with “top-down” decision-making, this process remains. In this instance, we find that there is a systemic lack of collaboration with Islanders to allow them to prioritise their concerns, and a lack of adequate resources to allow them to build their resilience to climate impacts. We conclude that only through a genuine collaborative approach to climate adaptation can activities be properly developed, prioritised and undertaken.