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Rev Environ Health. 1999 Apr-Jun;14(2):91-102.

Climate change and its potential impacts on the Gulf Coast region of the United States.

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  • 1Environmental Science Ph.D. Program, School of Science and Technology, Jackson State University, Mississippi 39217, USA.


The Gulf Coast region of the United States abuts five states, including Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. In general, the Gulf of Mexico has a surface area of 1.63 million square kilometers (630,000 square miles) and a watershed area of 4.69 million square kilometers (1.81 million square miles) in the United States. This region is one of the nation's largest ecological systems and is closely linked to a significant portion of the nation's economy. In the Gulf Coast region, energy, fisheries, agriculture, and tourism rank among the most significant sectors of the economy. The Gulf has five of the top ten fishing ports in the United States, and commercial fisheries in the Gulf annually produce nearly 2 billion tons of fish, oysters, shrimps, and crabs. Gulf ports handle one-half of the nation's import-export tonnage. Petroleum produced in the Gulf represents about 80% of the nation's offshore production. The Gulf Coast region largely relies on many natural resources to fuel many important sectors of its economy. But nevertheless, the health and vitality of the Gulf have declined in recent years, caused in part by increasing populations along its coast and the growing demand upon its resources and in part by the accumulation of years of careless depletion, abuse, and neglect of the environment. Equally important are the impacts of natural and human-induced climate change on the economy and on the quality of life for millions of people living in the Gulf Coast region. The results have generated alarming increases in damage to and destruction of the ecosystems and habitats of the Gulf. This paper reviews the nature of global environmental change and addresses the potential health and environmental impacts that may occur in the Gulf Coast region of the United States as a consequence of various environmental alterations resulting from global change.

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