- Shoreline Armoring
- Elevate Land
- Hybrid Shore Protection
- Consequences of Protection
- Planning Maps
Shore Protection and Retreat
U.S. Global Change Research Program
Other EPA-sponsored Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Reports
- SAP 4.4: Preliminary Review of Adaptation Options for Climate-Sensitive Ecosystems and Resources
- SAP 4.6: Analyses of the Effects of Global Change on Human Health and Welfare and Human Systems
By James G. Titus and Michael Craghan
Shore Protection and Retreat (21 pp, 13.5MB) was originally published as Chapter 6 of the US Climate Change Science Program's Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1. A reasonable way of citing this paper would be: Titus, J.G. and M Craghan, 2009: Shore Protection and Retreat. In: J.G. Titus (coordinating lead author), K.E. Anderson, D.R. Cahoon, D.B. Gesch, S.K. Gill, B.T. Gutierrez, E.R. Thieler, and S.J. Williams (lead authors). Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC, pp. 87-103.
- 6.1 Techniques for Shore Protection and Retreat
- 6.1.1 Shore Protection
- 6.1.2 Retreat
- 6.1.3 Combinations of Shore Protection and Retreat
- 6.2: What factors influence the decision whether to protect or retreat?
- 6.3: What are the environmental consequences of retreat and shore protection?
- 6.4: What are the societal consequences of retreat and shore protection?
- 6.5: How sustainable are retreat and shore protection?
- Many options are available for protecting land from inundation, erosion, and flooding(“shore protection”), or for minimizing hazards and environmental impacts by removing development from the most vulnerable areas (“retreat”).
- Coastal development and shore protection can be mutually reinforcing. Coastal development often encourages shore protection because shore protection costs more than the market value of undeveloped land, but less than the value of land and structures. Shore protection sometimes encourages coastal development by making a previously unsafe area safe for development. Under current policies, shore protection is common along developed shores and rare along shores managed for conservation, agriculture, and forestry. Policymakers have not decided whether the practice of protecting development should continue as sea level rises, or be modified to avoid adverse environmental consequences and increased costs of shore protection.
- Most shore protection structures are designed for the current sea level, and retreat policies that rely on setting development back from the coast are designed for the current rate of sea-level rise. Those structures and policies would not necessarily accommodate a significant acceleration in the rate of sea-level rise.
- Although shore protection and retreat both have environmental impacts, the long-term impacts of shore protection are likely to be greater.
- In the short term, retreat is more socially disruptive than shore protection. In the long term, however, shore protection may be more disruptive—especially if it fails or proves to be unsustainable.
- We do not know whether “business as usual” shore protection is sustainable.
- A failure to plan now could limit the flexibility of future generations to implement preferred adaptation strategies. Short-term shore protection projects can impair the flexibility to later adopt a retreat strategy. By contrast, short-term retreat does not significantly impair the ability to later erect shore protection structures inland from the present shore.
- For previous reports focused on the implications of rising sea level, go to More Sea Level Rise Reports.