Sunday, August 31, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Americans want sea level rise prep, not reaction

They also want property owners, not the public, to foot the bill.

Americans want sea level rise prep, not reaction

A broken house on the beach in Mantoloking, N.J. (April Saul / Staff Photographer)
A broken house on the beach in Mantoloking, N.J. (April Saul / Staff Photographer)

Sea level rise is happening. In the last century, it’s gone up a foot in Delaware Bay, more along the Atlantic coast of New Jersey.

That changes everything, from the height of the twice-daily tides to what happens in storms like Sandy, which swept the coast and left more than $70 billion in property damage.

So should we prepare for more, or take our chances and simply react if it happens again?

An overwhelming majority of Americans — 82 percent of those surveyed — opt for preparation, according to a study released today by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Center for Ocean Solutions.

And they want the property owners, not the public, to foot the bill.

About 62 percent also favor stronger building codes for new structures along the coast. And 52 percent want policies to prevent new buildings in vulnerable areas.

Where to put people and buildings is a legitimate question. A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report released March 25 predicts that U.S. coastlines — already crowded in our area, to be sure — will have 11 million more people living along them by 2020.

Few people believe that preparing ahead will harm the economy or eliminate jobs. “In fact, more people believe that preparation efforts will help the economy and create jobs around the U.S.,” said survey director Jon Krosnick in a press release. He’s a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and professor of communication.

As far as adaptation strategies, 48 percent of the survey’s respondents favor sand dune restoration; 33 percent favor efforts to maintain beaches with sand replenishment; 37 percent support relocating structures away from the coast; 33 percent support constructing sea walls.

The survey was conducted with 1,174 American adults over the internet.

Among those contributing to the survey design and analysis process were Ezra Markowitz, a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University, and Robert Socolow, director of the Princeton University Environmental Institute's Climate and Energy Challenge.

The results were presented this morning in Washington, D.C. A video of both the presentation and a panel discussion afterward is available here.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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