Adapting to Rising Sea Levels

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According to IPCC estimates, sea levels will rise between .18 and .6 meters by 2100. More recent estimates indicate that actual amounts of sea level rise may be much more, and that 1 meter of sea level rise by 2100 is likely a conservative estimate. These rising sea levels will result not only in more flooding during storm events, but also increased erosion and gradual inundation of coastal property. At the same time, coastal populations in the United States continue to increase rapidly: over half of all Americans live in coastal counties, and at least 25 million more people are expected to move to the coast by 2015. The end result is that human populations, coastal infrastructure, and coastal ecosystems will become increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. This study examines the political and legal constraints to and opportunities for adaptation to rising sea levels. Using legal and policy analysis and case studies from California, North Carolina and Texas, this study explores the ability of governments to use market tools, land use regulations, and property acquisition to promote adaptation to rising sea levels. Because of market dynamics and political factors including flaws in public risk perception, I conclude that governments who wish to avoid extensive coastal engineering, , can address coastal community vulnerability through a combination of regulations and incentives that spur state and local governments to engage in forward land use planning and other measures to reduce their exposure to sea level rise impacts.






Peloso, Margaret Elizabeth (2010). Adapting to Rising Sea Levels. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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