US Climate Change Science Program posts final draft report warning of rising seas, damaged coasts


The US Climate Change Science Program has posted a final (third) review draft of a key report, Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise:  A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region (available in .pdf).  Nearly 800 pages long and 3 years in the making, the draft study concludes that the Mid-Atlantic Coast “is a region where high population density and extensive coastal development is likely to be at increased risk due to sea-level rise.”  Led by the US EPA with strong contributions from NOAA, USGS, and other experts, the study could have been stronger with more active participation from the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA.  Despite this limitation, the study is packed with useful information.  EPA as lead agency should conduct press events, congressional briefings, arrange interviews with reporters, and conduct outreach to communities along the Atlantic Coast. 




Post by Anne Polansky

This CCSP report, Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1, was initiated in December 2005.  Covering the US Atlantic Coast from Montauk, NY to Cape Lookout, NC, it points out the need to “rigorously assess vulnerability and examine the costs and benefits of taking adaptive actions.”  However, figuring out the appropriate adaptive actions “is not simple, due to uncertainty in the timing and magnitude of impacts, and difficulties in quantifying projected costs and the timing and magnitude of impacts, and difficulties in quantifying projected costs and benefits.”

Preparedness options are covered, such as preservation-based land-use planning, changing the way buildings are sited and designed, and bringing flood insurance rates in line with increased risks of sea level rise.  The authors recommend incorporating sea-level rise into coastal wetlands programs to allow coastal wetlands to migrate inland, especially if the land is undeveloped. 

The report concludes that sea-level rise does not currently threaten the financial integrity of the National Flood Insurance Program, but that “incorporating sea-level rise into the program.. could allow flood insurance rates to more closely reflect changing risk and enable participating local government to more effectively manage coastal floodplains.” 

It is acknowledged in the posting of public comments and CCSP responses that neither the US Army Corps of Engineers nor the Federal Emergency Management Agency were able to participate in the authorship but did provide review;  future investigations of sea level rise, especially in terms of preparedness and potential societal responses, should include active participation by these agencies. 

The final review draft does not include the appendices released with the draft released February 25; these should be included in the final release, as they contain enormous amounts of location-specific information. 

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