Adapting to Sea Level Rise: the Tension Between Protection and Discontinuous Change

Communities and individuals can spend money and alter their environments to reduce risks they face from sea level rise and other climate-driven risks.  These actions can be cost-effective in the short-run, but may encourage patterns of development that increase exposure and disruption over longer time frames.  Public policy and expenditure should address the possibility of long-term discontinuous change as part of short-term decision-making.  The timing of transition from protection to relocation is a central but unconsidered aspect of adaptation policy.  This paper is part of the ISGP Climate Change Arctic Program conference “Sea Level Rise: What’s Our Next Move,” Oct. 2-3, 2015, St. Petersburg, Florida.