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Middlebury Institute professor Fernando DePaolis and Center for the Blue Economy senior fellow Phil King were major contributors to a new study that could help coastal towns and cities around the nation identify strategies for responding to rising sea levels. The findings in the new study from the Nature Conservancy (Economic Impact of Climate Adaptation Strategies for Southern Monterey Bay) indicate that shoreline armoring methods like seawalls and revetments are not only problematic for the environment, but poor financial investments as well. In the long term, the expense of building seawalls outweighs any benefits they provide.

“Sea level rise and climate change will impact Monterey Bay in many ways,” says DePaolis. While the report analyzes multiple dimensions of the adaptation strategies, he and King quantified the economic impact of alternative strategies as members of the socio-economic team. “The main impact is from tourism, as the length and depth of local beaches will be reduced and beachgoers will see a reduction in the quality of their experiences.”

“Many people think of beaches as ecological deserts when they actually provide a rich array of ecological functions, goods and services,” said King. “This study attempts to capture all of the benefits and costs associated with adaptation to sea level rise, both private and public.”

The effects of the study are particularly applicable in southern Monterey Bay, which has one of the fastest eroding coastlines in California. Kimberly Cole, chief of planning, engineering and environmental compliance for the City of Monterey, says the report “comes at a critical time in our coastal adaptation planning process for the City of Monterey, which is currently working to develop a certified Local Coastal Program. The analysis provides invaluable information that will inform the planning process for the City and neighboring communities in southern Monterey Bay.”

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir