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Characterizing Climatic Socio-Environmental Tipping Points in Coastal Communities: A Conceptual Framework for Research and Practice
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  • Julie Elizabeth Shortridge,
  • Anamaria Bukvic,
  • Molly Mitchell,
  • Jesse Goldstein,
  • Tom Allen
Julie Elizabeth Shortridge
Virginia Tech

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

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Anamaria Bukvic
Virginia Tech
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Molly Mitchell
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
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Jesse Goldstein
Virginia Commonwealth University
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Tom Allen
Old Dominion University
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The concept of climate tipping points in socio-environmental systems is increasingly being used to describe nonlinear climate change impacts and encourage social transformations in response to climate change. However, the processes that lead to these tipping points and their impacts are highly complex and deeply uncertain. This is due to numerous interacting environmental and societal system components, constant system evolution, and uncertainty in the relationships between events and their consequences. In the face of this complexity and uncertainty, this research presents a conceptual framework that describes systemic processes that could lead to tipping points socio-environmental systems, with a focus on coastal communities facing sea level rise. Within this context, we propose an organizational framework for system description that consists of elements, state variables, links, internal processes, and exogenous influences. This framework is then used to describe three mechanisms by which socio-environmental tipping could occur: feedback processes, cascading linkages, and nonlinear relationships. We presented this conceptual framework to an expert panel of coastal practitioners and found that it has potential to characterize the effects of secondary climatic impacts that are rarely the focus of coastal risk analyses. Finally, we identify salient areas for further research that can build upon the proposed conceptual framework to inform practical efforts that support climate adaptation and resilience.
21 Sep 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
30 Sep 2023Published in ESS Open Archive