Tear Down That Wall
A wall is a great way to keep the waves out of your backyard, if you don't mind kissing wetlands goodbye.
Also from the Climate Desk: Which part of the Atlantic coast will be swallowed by the sea?
The quickest way to adapt to rising sea levels is to simply build a wall to keep the water out. But turning the shoreline into a fortress will trade one kind of environmental devastation for another, according to Jim Titus, the Environmental Protection Agency's expert on sea-level rise. Titus predicts that by the end of the century, sea walls, bulkheads, and other kinds of shoreline defenses could lead to the destruction of as much as 90 percent of the Atlantic Coast's wetlands. Here's the problem: By preventing coastal areas from eroding, manmade defenses also prevent wetlands from migrating inland, leaving them to slowly drown as the water rises.
For the past three decades, Titus has tried to get state and local governments to address this problem, without much luck. He recently started tackling it from a different angle: Taking on the US Army Corps of Engineers. The 1972 Clean Water Act gave the Corps the power to stop property owners from destroying wetlands. Developers who want to build upon wetlands must create new ones somewhere else—a requirement that costs them $2.9 billion annually. Expanding this rule to include the long-term effects of sea walls could cost developers billions more and provoke a showdown between the government and homeowners desperate to hold back the waves.