Across the United States, coastal communities face increased uncertainty and risks from intensifying coastal erosion, flooding, sea level rise, and other climate change impacts. These threats need to be taken very seriously. Nearly 100 million Americans live in coastal counties making up about 30 percent of the U.S. population; another 30 million people (9 percent) live in the Great Lakes region.
Through creative partnerships, innovative program design, and intentional community engagement, practitioners and researchers around the country are carrying out new work to adapt to the rapidly changing coastal environment. These efforts would be enhanced and more successful with increased support and assistance from the federal government.
EESI recognized the need to educate policymakers by sharing the experiences of coastal communities that are working to adapt to climate change and enhance their resilience to severe weather and natural hazards. Between June 2019 and June 2020, EESI organized and hosted 16 in-person and online Congressional briefings, which featured 42 coastal resilience experts from Alaska, the Caribbean, Great Lakes, Gulf Coast, Hawaii, Northeast, Southeast, and West Coast. This report represents a distillation of the ideas, findings, and policy recommendations identified during EESI's Regional Coastal Resilience Congressional briefing series.
Organized by six major sections—Community at the Forefront, Land Use and Development, Cultural Heritage, Climate Adaptation and Resilience Data, Disaster Preparedness, and Financing Adaptation and Resilience—this report provides a comprehensive overview of regional coastal resilience efforts based on panelists' presentations made during the briefing series. In addition to the 30 specific recommendations, this report offers six guiding principles intended to inform the implementation of coastal resilience policy:
- Federal policies and programs must be designed and implemented based on the climate of the future rather than the climate of the present or past.
- Climate justice and equity must be fully embedded into new policies and programs and incorporated into ongoing efforts.
- The federal government should take a leadership role in connecting science with practice, and support and expand collaborations with state, local, and tribal efforts.
- The federal government should take a leadership role to ensure that intra- and inter-agency coordination helps states, local governments, and tribes to access available coastal resilience resources.
- Federal investments in coastal communities must be leveraged to create local jobs and help develop a workforce trained in adaptation and resilience.
- Climate adaptation and resilience work should complement and, when possible, contribute to a decarbonized, clean energy economy.
This report—designed as a usable and practical resource for Congress, federal agencies, and the public—includes 30 coastal resilience policy recommendations. These recommendations are brought to life by specific examples of climate solutions in practice today that also hold promise for the future. These various initiatives, projects, examples of community leadership, and funding mechanisms are models for the work that is still needed to accelerate resilience for all coastal communities.