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The impact of sea level rise on coastal communities and the effectiveness of adaptation strategies

VENICE BEACH BOARDWALK Credit: Nickolay Lamm. Data: Climate Central

“Life on this earth first emerged from the sea. As the polar ice melts and sea level rises, we humans find ourselves facing the prospect that once again we may quite literally become ocean.” - John Luther Adams

Sea level rise is a harmful consequence of climate change that could have a global impact. As temperatures rise and polar ice melts, the world's oceans expand, causing water to pile up on low-lying coastal areas. Sea level rise is a serious threat to coastal communities around the world, triggering a chain reaction of consequences that endangers both human settlements and ecosystems. It might also have a negative impact and implications for low-lying areas, intensifying the effects of storm surges, threatening lives, and even affecting global economic conditions. However, there are two strategies that the community can use: fighting rising sea level issues and adapting to the new climatic conditions.

Battle against the Rising Sea Level Issues

According to Earth Observatory/Robert Simmon, Annual Global Surface Temperature from 1850-2019 shows yearly temperature anomalies that allow us to know the fact that the average rate of rise of 3.4 mm/year over the past 27 years has now increased to about 4.8 mm/year, or approximately 18.9 in./century. This issue leads to the possibility of future sea levels that are predicted.

We can start by taking small steps to stop all of the problems caused by the rising sea level. For example, we can use an integrated approach to achieve sustainability through integrated coastal zone management, like planting submerged aquatic vegetation (like seagrasses) to stabilize sediment and reduce erosion, or beginning to consider sustainability to our environment more broadly. In this case, the land acquisition program obtains damaged or at-risk coastal land and uses it for conservation.

Adapting to The New Climate Conditions

The erosion-caused loss of coastal land could be impacted by rising sea levels. Using sand from outside sources, typically offshore, to artificially widen a beach is one method for temporarily halting shoreline retreat or beach erosion. Apart from that, the most common historical remedy for coastal erosion, shoreline retreat, or flooding has been to harden or armor the shoreline. Buildings along the seashore can adapt to rock revetments, seawalls, levees, or floodwalls, among other engineered or non-engineered structures. These also can be fixed through natural infrastructure such as mangrove restoration and dune stabilization, fostering resilience by absorbing wave energy and preventing erosion.

In the end, dealing with the effects of rising sea levels on coastal communities necessitates a multifaceted and collaborative approach. Striking a balance between hard infrastructure and nature-based solutions, informed by sound policies, offers a promising path forward in the face of this formidable challenge. Only by working together can coastal communities adapt, thrive, and secure their future against the sea's relentless rise.


Bongarts Lebbe Théophile, Rey-Valette Hélène, Chaumillon Éric. 2021. “Designing Coastal Adaptation Strategies to Tackle Sea Level Rise”, no. 8: 2296-7745.

Griggs, Gary, and Borja G. Reguero. 2021. "Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise" Water 13, no. 16: 2151.

“Sea Level Rise.” Environmental Resilience Institute. Accessed November 30, 2023.

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