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Abstract

Sea-level rise (SLR) increases the risk of permanent inundation of coastal lands and structures, while also increasing the risk of periodic damage from storms and risks to ecological resources. Prior studies have illustrated the importance of considering adaptation measures, such as armoring and beach nourishment, when estimating the economic cost of SLR, but these studies have taken the form either of careful, geographically limited case studies or national estimates based on limited samples. We present a framework for evaluating the economics of adaptation to permanent inundation from SLR that employs detailed local scale data and is spatially comprehensive, and apply the framework to estimate costs of adaptation for the full coastline of the continental US. Our results show that the economic cost of SLR is much larger than prior estimates suggest—more than $63 billion cumulative discounted cost (at 3%) for a 68 cm SLR by 2100, and $230 billion undiscounted—yet is only one-fourth the total value of low-lying property vulnerable to SLR, illustrating the importance of careful site-specific consideration of adaptation. Further, the granularity of the framework provides spatial, temporal, and response mode details useful to both national policy-makers and local adaptation planners, and can readily incorporate estimates of ecological and storm surge damages as they become available. WIREs Clim Change 2011 2 89–98 DOI: 10.1002/wcc.90

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