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Climate Change and the Challenge of Community Relocation

Climate Change and the Challenge of Community Relocation

Climate change will profoundly affect how people move and where people live. Coastal communities, home to approximately 40% of the U.S. population, face the prospect of continuing sea level rise. Inland areas are not immune, faced as they are with the potential for flooding rivers and the prospect of wetter, slower-moving storms like hurricanes Harvey and Florence. Melting permafrost and increasingly intense wildfires pose challenges for communities from Alaska to Australia.

In recent years, and recent months, a pressing question is how communities forced to confront climate-induced catastrophe undertake the decision to adapt.

This is something we’re in a good position to consider. One of us has extensive expertise in natural hazards risk reduction, disaster recovery and climate change adaptation; the other in greenhouse gas reduction opportunities from the individual to national scales. And while we both continue work in our respective fields, we also believe it is increasingly necessary to focus on the very real and impactful decisions facing communities that find themselves on the frontlines of climate change.

For example, flood-prone communities may seek to accommodate change through practices like increased structural elevation (in attempts to rise above floodwaters), while others may seek to harden against changing conditions through structures like seawalls (in attempts to block out floodwaters).