There is a complex interaction between pollution, climate change, the environment and people. This complex interplay of actions and impacts is particularly relevant in coastal regions, where the land meets the sea. To achieve sustainable development in coastal systems, a better understanding is necessary of the role and impact of pollution and the connectedness of the elements, namely, pollution, climate and the people, as well as associated impacts unfolding in an integrated social–ecological system (SES). In this context, the enabling capacity of tools connecting scientific efforts to societal demands is much debated. This paper establishes the basis for climate-smart socially innovative tools and approaches for marine pollution science. The goal of developing a set of innovative tools is twofold: first, to build on, integrate, and further improve the well-founded strengths in diagnosis and process understanding of systemic environmental problems; and, second, to provide decision-making with usable information to create actionable knowledge for managing the impact of marine pollution on the SES under a changing climate. The paper concludes by establishing the scope for a ‘last mile’ approach incorporating scientific evidence of pollution under climate change conditions into decision-making in a SES on the coast. The paper uses case studies to demonstrate the need for collaborative tools to connect the science of coastal pollution and climate with decision-making on managing human activities in a SES.
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