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Adapting to rising seas: the complex mosaic of social and ecological costs

Authors: Daniella Hirschfeld*, Utah State University
Topics: Environment, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: climate change adaptation; sea level rise; coastal management; justice
Session Type: Paper
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Sea level rise will disproportionately impact vulnerable communities and exacerbate existing pressures (Martinich, et al., 2013; Nicholls & Klein, 2005). Biodiversity and critical habitat is threatened by future climate impacts (Stralberg et al., 2011). There is mounting evidence that government action is increasing (Bierbaum et al., 2013) and physical adaptation plans are being developed (Reeder & Ranger, 2011). Scholars argue that the benefits of climate work is not equally distributed (Corburn, 2003). However, the research has not explicitly addressed the issue of injustices arising from the costs of different climate adaptation strategies.

Against this background, in this paper I explore three critical questions: 1) What are the different costs of physical climate adaptation strategies? 2) How are these costs spatially and socially distributed? and 3) What are the known ecological implications of certain designs? To address these questions I build on my previous adaptation costs analysis (Hirschfeld & Hill, 2017) by applying the research to other developed urban estuaries and more deeply connecting the work with local demographic and ecological data. Preliminary work suggests that communities with fewer resources will be disadvantaged in efforts to design and build protective structures. Through this work I aim to shed light additional injustices and the potential for simple data utilization to alleviate some of these concerns. In conclusion, this project, by closely examining the intersection of adaptation costs and social demographic data, sheds new light on the rarely addressed issue of the injustices in financing climate change adaptation efforts.

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