Urgent Action Needed to Prepare Coastal Communities for Sea Level Rise

EDF statement of Natalie Snider, Associate Vice President, Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds

February 15, 2022

(Washington, D.C. – February 15, 2022) Today, NOAA’s National Ocean Service and interagency partners released an updated technical report highlighting the risks facing people living in coastal communities across the country from sea level rise. The report indicates that seas will rise by up to a foot nationally by 2050, and potentially by up to two feet by 2100 depending on rates of emissions.  

“The latest report on sea level rise makes it abundantly clear that our coastal communities are at a major crossroads. Without action, sea level rise will cause widespread devastation to people, wildlife, businesses and vital infrastructure across this country. We must act now to advance bold solutions to protect communities before the worst effects take hold. This requires a whole-of-government approach to confront this crisis with proactive, comprehensive resilience planning and strategies at the federal and state levels. We must invest in solutions, such as natural infrastructure, to provide a vital buffer for communities from rising seas. Government leaders must prioritize efforts to reduce flood risk for communities that are most vulnerable, and do so in a manner that is just, equitable and addresses the disproportionate impacts of the climate crisis. Limiting future rates of sea level rise is an existential issue for our coastal communities, so leaders must work urgently to stabilize the climate with solutions that avoid these worst-case scenarios.”     

  • Natalie Snider, Associate Vice President, Climate Resilient Coasts and Watersheds, Environmental Defense Fund 

Background: 

  • This latest assessment follows another recent study published in Nature Climate Change indicating flood-related losses already cost the US approximately $32 billion each year and flood risk in the US will increase by more than 25% by 2050. The study indicates that future flood risk will disproportionately impact Black communities on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. 
  • Recently, a bipartisan group of legislators introduced the Shoreline Health Oversight, Restoration, Resilience, and Enhancement (SHORRE) Act, which will empower the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to develop holistic and equitable solutions to address comprehensive flood risks across our nation’s coasts and watersheds. EDF and more than 100 partners called for this mandate last year in response to the Corps’ plans to address only storm surge flooding in places like New York and Miami, while omitting sea level rise and tidal flooding. 
  • The Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIIJA) passed by Congress last year brings huge investments for critical resilience initiatives across the federal government and directly to states. Included is nearly $23 billion for USACE’s Civil Works program, providing a once-in-a-generation window of opportunity to fund and implement water resource infrastructure projects and programs that center equity and natural infrastructure solutions to benefit communities and ecosystems around the country. 
  • Federal adaptation funding for FEMA programs like the Building Resilience Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) will triple over the next five years. The most recent BRIC grant cycle received a record-setting $4.16 billion in applications from states, tribes, and territories for initiatives that build resilience to flooding and other natural hazards. 
  • Increasingly, coastal states – including Louisiana, North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey — are releasing Coastal Resilience Master Plans to address long-term flood risks. 

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One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund (edf.org) creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 2.5 million members and offices in the United States, China, Mexico, Indonesia and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys and policy experts are working in 28 countries to turn our solutions into action. Connect with us on Twitter @EnvDefenseFund