Climate Adaptation & Resilience

Ocean MistCoastal populations in the United States and internationally have grown dramatically over the last 50 years. Climate change has resulted in accelerated sea level rise (SLR) and more frequent intense coastal storms in many coastal regions. Consequently, many coastal communities are experiencing shoreline migration and storm surges that threaten businesses, homes, critical infrastructure, and lives. Many small island countries are threatened with massive or complete inundation. The threat from climate change is particularly strong to coastal communities in the Northeastern United States, because the land mass is sinking, the area has experienced a marked increase in severe coastal storms, and it is the most heavily populated shoreline in the United States. Potential human responses to this increased coastal threat can be divided into three categories: protection, accommodation, and retreat. Protection strategies include armoring potential coastal hazard zones with structures such as revetments, sea walls, bulkheads, and breakwaters or undertaking large beach nourishment projects. Accommodation involves building more hazard-resistant structures, such as elevating buildings and infrastructure, flood proofing structures, and creating floodable landscapes. Retreat involves the relocation of buildings and infrastructure to less vulnerable areas. As the proposed responses to Superstorm Sandy show, efforts to make communities less vulnerable and more resilient to the increased risks created by climate change will likely include a blend of these three approaches. Students who are interested in adaptation to climate change will learn about the science of climate change and coastal processes, land-use and engineering responses, governmental responses, and the responses of individuals.

Students who studied coastal adaptation to climate change have found positions in federal and state coastal management programs, emergency management agencies, and private consulting firms.

Faculty working in this area:

Courses offered:

  • MAF 465: Human Responses to Coastal Hazards and Disasters.
  • MAF 511: Ocean Uses and Marine Sciences
  • MAF 516: Seminar on the Urban Waterfront
  • MAF 564: Port Operations and Policy
  • MAF 582: Coastal Ecosystem Governance
  • MAF 3xx/Soc3xx: Environmental Sociology