The states most impacted by extreme weather events associated with climate change remain the least prepared because they lack solid coastal preservation and policies to deal with the rise in sea level, according to a report out Wednesday from the Surfrider Foundation.
The 2020 State of the Beach Report grades 31 U.S. states and the territory of Puerto Rico on their policies to protect our nation’s beaches from coastal erosion, sea level rise, and poorly planned development.
Although California receives an A grade, the overall results found that 74% of coastal states are doing a mediocre to poor job of managing shorelines and preparing for future sea level rise. Most of the lowest grades are in regions heavily impacted by extreme weather events.
These states — many facing the Gulf of Mexico or Atlantic Ocean — tend to have less stringent policies regarding development in hazardous coastal zones, sediment management, ineffective or nonexistent regulations on coastal armoring, and little in the way of policies that require the incorporation of sea level rise projections into coastal planning, according to the foundation.
Eight states are doing a “good or better” job of protecting beaches, including California, which was the only state to receive an A grade. The higher scoring states had strong policies regarding coastal building setbacks, prohibitions against coastal armoring and rebuilding in coastal hazard areas, and support for incorporating sea level rise and coastal adaptation into planning documents.
States receiving F grades included Georgia, Alabama, Ohio and Indiana.
“From unprecedented fires, to extreme hurricanes, and increasing sea level rise, local communities are presently experiencing climate change impacts,” said Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, coastal preservation manager at the Surfrider Foundation. “Scientists predict these impacts will continue to grow, especially for coastal communities. Therefore, it is imperative that states and municipalities improve shoreline management practices by curtailing poorly planned development, planning for sea level rise, and investing in proactive, nature-based solutions. Our report recommendations aim to improve responses to coastal threats, thereby ensuring strong, resilient coastlines for the future generations.”
The report also posits that in the future, the United States will experience drastically more flooding than previously calculated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The conclusions estimate that 14.6 million properties are at risk from a “100-year flood,” far more than the 8.7 million properties estimated by FEMA.
The Surfrider Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the planet’s ocean, waves and beaches. It was founded in 1984 in Malibu, and now maintains more than one million supporters, activists and members.
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