Analysis of Climate Adaptation Strategies for Southeast U.S. Coastal Cities

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Gallagher, Deborah Rigling

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The realities of climate change are no longer future predictions to address in years to come. Impacts to Southeast coastal communities from rising sea levels, strange weather, and stronger storms caused by a warming planet are occurring today. Trends in scientific measurements clearly indicate that temperatures are rising, sea ice is melting, and storm intensity is increasing. The Southeast coastline is particularly vulnerable to these changes and local communities are the first to feel the impacts and address the needs. Yet many conversations about adaptation to climate change impacts are only occurring at high levels of government concerning international issues. Local decision-makers in the Southeast U.S. need tools to identify strategies that will provide adequate protection to their citizens as well as to manage environmental quality and prepare for any uncertainties.

This Master’s project identifies primary and secondary climate change impacts to coastal areas of the Southeast U.S. A preliminary analysis was conducted to identify the societal implications incurred from impacts and the specific sector of society to which those impacts correspond. A resiliency criterion analysis was then created to qualitatively examine climate adaptation response strategies through three core evaluation mechanisms: adequate adaptive capacity, environmental sustainability, and the win-win nature of measures. To test the usefulness of the resiliency criteria, sea level rise response strategies were analyzed. Methods for this project included an extensive literature review of scientific findings as well as in-depth interviews with nine professional experts in the fields of government, academia, and coastal environmental non-profit organizations.

The results of the criteria analysis indicate that measures receiving a “very high” ranking thoroughly meet the resiliency goals of maximizing human safety, community protection, environmental sustainability, and flexibility. Measures ranking “low” or “very low” fail the resiliency criteria in two or more categories and likely contribute to environmental degradation. Reviewing adaptation strategies for resiliency is an effective determination of strategic response initiatives. Creating communities resilient to climate change will require local officials to utilize tools such as this to choose optimal adaptation strategies.





Reeves, Ulla-Britt (2008). Analysis of Climate Adaptation Strategies for Southeast U.S. Coastal Cities. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.