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Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics


Coastal Climate Adaptation: A Grand Challenge for Environmental and Resource Economics

Coastal climate adaptation unites approaches within environmental and resource economics and other disciplines. Sea-level rise, ocean warming and acidification, and increased storminess are press and pulse disturbances that threaten to alter or intensify bio-physical coastal changes. Communities respond in ways that neither maximize total economic value nor apply the appropriate spatial scale of response. We synthesize multiple strains of modeling and empirical work that inform coastal adaptation, focusing on coastline change. North Carolina illustrates broad themes of coastal adaptation, exemplifies coastal resource valuation, and highlights research and policy challenges. Modeling coastlines as coupled human-natural systems explains historic patterns of coastline change, clarifies needs for empirical estimates, and provides a roadmap for interdisciplinary policy analysis of adaptation. Despite extensive literature on coastal amenities, hazards, and ex post policy evaluation, parameterizing coupled models of complex coastal environments facing climate change requires much more empirical information. Extending coupled models of coastal adaptation to incorporate spatial-dynamics and both market and non-market values also points to fundamental problems with status quo governance structures. To maximize total economic value in the coastal zone, adaptation will require multi-scale governance and attention to many margins and tradeoffs across market and non-market values, echoing recent advances in fisheries  bioeconomics. 

Gopalakrishnan S., Landry, C.L., and Smith, M.D., ‘Coastal Climate Adaptation: A Grand Challenge for Environmental and Resource Economics’, 2016, Working Paper

Publication type: 
Working paper
Date published: 
Tuesday, June 14, 2016