Global Environmental Change in Coastal North Carolina: Public Opinion and Impact Mitigation

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DeMarco, Kristin


Murray, Brad

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Abstract As research progresses the observed or anticipated impacts of global warming become more pronounced and the projections more precise. Impacts along coastlines include sea level rise (SLR) and increasing proportion of strong tropical storms, which in turn amplifies significant wave height. When combined with an increase in coastal stressors climate change can have deleterious impacts on coastal areas; exacerbating erosion, land loss, destruction of property and loss of life. Physical characteristics in the Tidewater region of North Carolina make it vulnerable to climate change, especially when combined with human population increases. To assess the awareness of likely effects of SLR, storms, waves, development, erosion and land loss in North Carolina the following study was completed from November 2005 through May 2007.

The study used two methods of investigation. The first used surveys to determine the state of knowledge concerning global change impacts on the coast and assess the publics’ willingness to accept impact reduction mechanisms. The second approach used case studies of two North Carolina counties, Carteret and Dare County, to determine how and if prevalent local environmental issues are affected by global change.

Survey results indicate that North Carolinians are largely convinced that global warming is a) happening and b) exacerbated by human activities. There is more knowledge of widespread impacts of climate change than those experienced locally, although coastal residents displayed more knowledge than piedmont residents. Responses suggest North Carolinians believe global warming is exacerbating coastal stressors and is a serious problem. Despite this, there is little faith in the local governments’ ability to manage for potential impacts. Case study results showed that the majority of local issues involved land use/access and were further stressed by climate change impacts.

Various current mitigation efforts are available to manage the potential impacts of global climate change, although few of them are incorporated into policy and planning. There are many management tools available for coastal managers and planners, but until policy mandates protective measures on the coast there will be little effective mitigation. To mitigate the increasing impacts of global climate change research must influence proactive policies.





DeMarco, Kristin (2007). Global Environmental Change in Coastal North Carolina: Public Opinion and Impact Mitigation. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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