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Rising Tides: Relocation Principles for Sea Level Rise Adaptation

Authors: Hannah-Hunt Moeller*, MIT, Brent Ryan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Topics: Environment, Urban and Regional Planning, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: sea level rise, relocation, climate change, climigration, adaptation, urban planning + policy, managed retreat, decision-making GIS
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/7/2020
Start / End Time: 4:00 PM / 5:15 PM
Room: Virtual Track 2
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


With global sea levels rising at a rate of 3.3mm per year, cities worldwide are bracing for impacts of global climate change as scientists project an average range of sea level rise of 6 to 10 feet by 2100 (NOAA 2017, NASA 2019). While much of the existing literature has focused on climate change adaptation, sustainability, and resiliency, far fewer studies have considered the implications of long-term population displacement caused by sea level rise or the necessary policy and planning implications of these anticipated environmental shifts. This paper considers potential scenarios for long-term climate change displacement and maps five strategic principles that could be adopted as part of a regional relocation strategy for climate change refugees.

The five strategic indicators are operationalized as the Relocation Suitability Index (RSI), a parcel-level data analysis methodology and decision-making framework. It is suggested here as a potential tool for site assessment and local scenario planning. The RSI is deployed in a case study of Boston Metropolitan region to simulate potential considerations, available and necessary data, and the characteristics of planned relocation and development as a template applicable to the entire region.

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