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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

U.S. Coastal Sensitivity to Climate Change

The U.S. Climate Change Science Program has released another of its "synthesis and assessment" products, Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Highlights of the report include the following:

  • Rising water levels are already an important factor in submerging low-lying
    lands, eroding beaches, converting wetlands to open water, and exacerbating
    coastal flooding. All of these effects will be increased if the rate of sea-level rise accelerates in the future.
  • Most coastal wetlands in the mid-Atlantic would be lost if sea level rises one meter in the next century. Even a 50-cm rise would threaten most wetlands along the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay.
  • Possible responses to sea level rise include seawalls, bulkheads, and other shoreline armoring; elevating buildings and land surfaces (including beaches
    and wetlands); and allowing shorelines to change and moving structures out
    of harm’s way. Those three approaches have very different environmental and social impacts.
  • Preparing now can reduce the eventual environmental and economic impacts of sea level rise.
  • Some governmental and nongovernmental organizations are already starting to prepare for sea level rise.

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