Hossain, M.
Dearing, J.
Eigenbrod, F.
Johnson, F.


Science Direct

Year of Publication:


This study makes a first attempt to operationalize the safe operating space concept at a regional scale by considering the complex dynamics (e.g. non-linearity, feedbacks, and interactions) within a systems dynamic model (SD). We employ the model to explore eight ‘what if’ scenarios based on well-known challenges (e.g. climate change) and current policy debates (e.g. subsidy withdrawal). The findings show that the social-ecological system in the Bangladesh delta may move beyond a safe operating space when a withdrawal of a 50% subsidy for agriculture is combined with the effects of a 2 °C temperature increase and sea level rise. Further reductions in upstream river discharge in the Ganges would push the system towards a dangerous zone once a 3.5 °C temperature increase was reached. The social-ecological system in Bangladesh delta may be operated within a safe space by: 1) managing feedback (e.g. by reducing production costs) and the slow biophysical variables (e.g. temperature, rainfall) to increase the long-term resilience, 2) negotiating for transboundary water resources, and 3) revising global policies (e.g. withdrawal of subsidy) that negatively impact at regional scales. This study demonstrates how the concepts of tipping points, limits to adaptations, and boundaries for sustainable development may be defined in real world social-ecological systems.

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