Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Coastal communities need to do more to protect shorelines from climate change, study says

Timothy B. Wheeler in the Baltimore Sun: Atlantic coastal communities have been slow to prepare themselves for rising sea level from climate change, though Maryland has been in the forefront of states in grappling with the issue, a new report says.

The report, published Tuesday as Senate leaders push climate legislation, summarizes the results of a $2 million federal effort to map the likelihood of shoreline protections if climate change raises sea level as predicted. The findings of the federal study were suppressed by the Bush administration, but the authors were allowed to air the outcome in "Environmental Research Letters," a scholarly journal.

Reviewing the land use plans of about 130 local governments from Maine to Florida, the report finds that coastal communities will require increasingly costly shoreline protections as sea level rises unless authorities take steps now to adapt. Likewise, the report's authors caution, ecologically important wetlands could be lost because little provision has been made to allow them to migrate inland naturally.

Maryland, though, is generally ahead of most other Atlantic states, the authors note. "It looks like they are not only moving in the right direction, it appears they are leading the rest of the nation, with the possible exception of a few New England states," said James G. Titus, lead author of the report, who works at the Environmental Protection Agency.

"That stands to reason," added Will Nuckols, a private consultant from Annapolis, another author, "because Maryland is one of the most threatened areas." The state has more than 4,000 miles of shoreline, including 31 miles of Atlantic oceanfront….

A US Coast Guard photo of a Holland Island lighthouse off the Maryland coast. The lighthouse was destroyed in 1960.

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