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article imageWhy climate change is forcing coastal communities to retreat

By Tim Sandle     Jul 29, 2018 in Environment
Changes in beach shoreline due to sea level rise and waves, which are, according to scientific consensus, the result of climate change, are leading many coastal communities to consider the unpalatable option: retreat.
Many coastlines are being reshaped as a result of sea level rise and changes in wave climate. Rising sea levels in particular represent a major threats for coastal regions, leading to submersion, erosion and increased vulnerability, to communities living close to the coast in many parts of the world, from extreme marine events. Furthermore, as a result of sea-level rises, major storms will inundate areas farther inland and will potentially lay waste to critical infrastructure, such as water-treatment and energy facilities.
A rise in global temperatures, especially over the past 25 years where an increase of 0.2 degrees Celsius per decade has been observed, is expected to cause global sea levels to rise further (the current rate is 3 milimeters per year). It is also expected that climate change will increase the frequency and magnitude of storm events.
Retreat — the only option
All this makes grim news for many people living in coastal communities. Over years many coastal communities have resisted moving. However, the extent to change is leading many to reconsider, especially given the advice from scientific experts. This tendency has been examined by Scientific American. On one hand, retreating from the coast is not popular. After all, some people will have lived in coastal communities for all of their lives. On the other hand, retreat provides the best form of flood mitigation; it also provides a degree of ecological restoration. For many policy makers, retreat is the logical adaptation to climate change.
New Jersey buys back properties
In New Jerry, for example, the state is running a program for some coastal communities called Blue Acres. Here the state purchases a property at risk from salt water flooding, and demolishes it thereby preventing any other person from moving in. In this part of the U.S., no one can be forcibly evacuated from their home. This is light of estimates that suggest 13.1 million people are at risk of flooding along the U.S. coast by the end of the century.
Strengthening beaches in France
In a different part of the world, in southwestern France, a shoreline road in the municipalities of Sète et de Marseillan (Languedoc-Roussillon region) was moved inland because it was threatened by erosion of the beach. This led to the reconstruction of a larger beach and dune system, designed to provide greater protection against erosion.
Canada undertakes surveys
To take a third example. In Canada, the New Brunswick government have completed a remapping exercise of the entire coast of the province to delineate the landward limit of coastal features. The result of this is are measures in place to stop new development of communities in certain locations, based on estimates of future coastal retreat.
Despite developments of many coastlines continuing throughout the world, for climate scientists these examples are the future state. The question is not if we will retreat from the coast, but when.
More about Retreat, coastal communities, Coast, Climate change