Sea-Level Rise and U.S. Coasts: Science and Policy Considerations [September 12, 2016]   [open pdf - 2MB]

"Policymakers are interested in sea-level rise because of the risk to coastal populations and infrastructure and the consequences for coastal species and ecosystems. From 1901 to 2010, global sea levels rose an estimated 187 millimeters (mm; 7.4 inches), averaging a 1.7 mm (0.07 inch) rise annually. Estimates are that the annual rate rose to 3.2 mm (0.13 inches) from 1992 to 2010. Although the extent of future sea-level rise remains uncertain, sea-level rise is anticipated to have a range of effects on U.S. coasts. It is anticipated to contribute to flood and erosion hazards, permanent or temporary land inundation, saltwater intrusion into coastal freshwaters, and changes in coastal terrestrial and estuarine ecosystems. Some states, such as Florida and Louisiana, and U.S. territories have a considerable share of their assets, people, economies, and water supplies vulnerable to sea-level rise. In 2010, roughly 100 million people lived in U.S. coastal shoreline counties. Increased flood risk associated with sea-level rise may increase demand for federal disaster assistance and challenge the National Flood Insurance Program. Federal programs support local and state infrastructure investments such as roads, bridges, and municipal water facilities that may be damaged or impaired. Sea-level rise also is anticipated to affect numerous federal facilities. [...] Policy choices related to sea-level rise have the potential to shape the future development and resiliency of U.S. coasts. Policy options include a continuation of current government programs and policies, actions that address the forces contributing to sea-level rise globally or locally, and actions that reduce the vulnerability to and consequences of sea-level rise on U.S. coasts."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R44632
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