Communities Alarmed by Rising Sea Levels

February 4, 2019

East and Gulf coast officials are pushing for billions of dollars for projects to better protect the nation's coastal regions from rising sea levels.

Storm battering trees

© Warren Faidley/Getty Images

About a third of the U.S. population lives along a coastline on the Atlantic or Pacific oceans or the Gulf of Mexico, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As deadly storms have hit regions such as Texas, North Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico in recent years and caused catastrophic flooding, a growing number of communities are realizing they aren’t fully prepared for intense weather events that scientists warn will lead to higher sea levels in the future.

Louisiana’s governor has pledged $55 million in state surplus and $300 million in offshore oil revenue to pay for coastal and levee improvements. Florida's governor has proposed investing $2.5 billion to protect the Everglades. In Massachusetts, the governor is proposing raising its tax on real estate transfers by 50 percent in much of the state to generate more than $1 billion over the next decade to help prevent flooding by strengthening sea walls and adding more flood-control systems.

Cities are grappling with how to pay for added protection as fears of the effects of climate change mount. Many of the largest U.S. cities are trying to rush through projects to better face flooding and other climate-related risks, a January report from Moody’s Investor Services shows.

"People every day are seeing the effect that extreme weather is having on businesses, the economy, on infrastructure and human lives," Carolyn Berndt, the program director for sustainability for the National League of Cities, told The Wall Street Journal. "There is really no choice except to take action.”

“Along the Coasts, Communities Gird for Rising Sea Levels,” The Wall Street Journal (Feb. 3, 2019) [Log-in required.]