The coming perfect storm: Diminishing sustainability of coastal human–natural systems in the Anthropocene

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Joel D. Gunn, Lecturer (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: We review impacts of climate change, energy scarcity, and economic frameworks on sustainabilityof natural and human systems in coastal zones, areas of high biodiversity, productivity, populationdensity, and economic activity. More than 50% of the global population lives within 200 km of acoast, mostly in tropical developing countries. These systems developed during stable Holoceneconditions. Changes in global forcings are threatening sustainability of coastal ecosystems andpopulations. During the Holocene, the earth warmed and became wetter and more productive.Climate changes are impacting coastal systems via sea level rise, stronger tropical cyclones,changes in basin inputs, and extreme weather events. These impacts are passing tipping points asthe fossil fuel-powered industrial-technological-agricultural revolution has overwhelmed thesource–sink functions of the biosphere and degraded natural systems. The current status ofindustrialized society is primarily the result of fossil fuel (FF) use. FFs provided more than 80%of global primary energy and are projected to decline to 50% by mid-century. This has profoundimplications for societal energy requirements, including the transition to a renewable economy.The development of the industrial economy allowed coastal social systems to become spatiallyseparated from their dominant energy and food sources. This will become more difficult tomaintain with the fading of cheap energy. It seems inevitable that past growth in energy use,resource consumption, and economic growth cannot be sustained, and coastal areas are in theforefront of these challenges. Rapid planning and cooperation are necessary to minimize impactsof the changes associated with the coming transition. There is an urgent need for a new economicframework to guide society through the transition as mainstream neoclassical economics is notbased on natural sciences and does not adequately consider either the importance of energy or thework of nature.

Additional Information

Cambridge Prisms: Coastal Futures, 1, E35
Language: English
Date: 2023
climate change, biophysical systems, coastal ecosystems, sustainability

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