Coastal Adaptation and Economic Tipping Points
by Franck, T.
Management of Environmental Quality, 20(4): 434-450, 2009
Purpose – This study aims to examine the effects of levee construction and tropical storms on regional economic growth of a coastal community. The study’s goal is to highlight feedbacks important to climate change adaptation in the coastal zone.
Design/methodology/approach – The research utilizes a dynamic feedback model that includes coastal engineering, urban economic development, and natural ecosystem response. The model is a tool to help discuss important long-term issues and to highlight areas of policy intervention. The data for the model come from US Census data, the global DIVA coastal database, and IPCC projections.
Findings – The results show urban areas facing elevated levels of exposure because of residents’ low understanding of climatic risks. Coastal managers may actually increase long-term exposure by attempting to protect coastal regions from long-term sea-level rise. Coastal defenses lead to a false sense of safety, increasing economic development in the short term, but causing larger economic losses in the long term, especially after a storm. Storm intensity and levee protection are important in determining an “economic tipping point” of long term growth – whether a community continues to grow or faces economic stagnation or decline. If storm damage is large enough, the community passes the tipping point and economic growth never recovers. The presence of levees changes the tipping point dynamic, making communities more resilient as long as there is no levee breach.
Originality/value – Coastal communities face increasing risk from accelerated sea-level rise and tropical storms. Understanding the long-term dynamics of protection decisions is important for creating effective adaptation policies.
"Copyright Emerald Group Publishing Ltd., 2009"
Full article available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/14777830910963762