A recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), titled “Looming Deadlines for Coastal Resilience,” indicates increasing risks to critical infrastructure and services in coastal communities due to rising sea levels. This projected rise over the coming decades poses widespread implications for public health, safety, education, well-being, and coastal ecosystems.

Key recommendations from the study are:

  1. Adopt Science-Based Planning: Incorporate scientific projections of sea level rise and coastal flooding in developing infrastructure plans. Local and state governments should conduct localized risk assessments and create comprehensive climate resilience plans. Public and private entities should coordinate on resilience planning, regularly updating plans as new data emerges.

  2. Increase Funding: Both public and private sector funding for infrastructure resilience must be scaled up. Investments in retrofitting infrastructure like wastewater facilities and electric substations can yield significant cost benefits.

  3. Address Equity: Historically disadvantaged communities, often in flood-prone areas, face disproportionate risks. Policymakers should prioritize resilience investments in these communities and involve them in decision-making processes.

  4. Protect Affordable Housing: Infrastructure improvements should include affordable housing protection. In some high-risk areas, discussions about managed retreat and resettlement resources might be necessary.

  5. Adaptive Planning: Develop flexible, adaptive plans to address long-term risks, ensuring that infrastructure can be modified as climate conditions change.

  6. Reduce Emissions: A comprehensive strategy to sharply curtail global emissions is crucial to limiting long-term sea level rise risks.

The UCS emphasizes the urgency of immediate action to safeguard coastal communities and infrastructure investments, particularly with significant investments expected through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).