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The study said its cost estimates are conservative and account for just one piece of climate adaptation: building more than 50, miles of seawalls and other barriers to protect coastal cities.

Study Estimates Seawalls to Protect U.S. Coast Will Cost $400 Billion

The study said this represents about 15 percent of the total cost associated with protecting cities from the effects of climate change, an expense that will fall to taxpayers if other sources of revenue are not found. The team constructed a searchable database that allows users to input a Zip code to see cost estimates for that area.

Stiles said holding polluters, including fossil fuel companies, responsible for at least some of the costs could be the most viable option. More than a dozen communities across the country have already filed climate liability suits against fossil fuel companies to recover costs associated with climate change. They hope to recover damages using state public nuisance laws that forbid companies from knowingly selling dangerous products, and fossil fuel companies, the communities emphasize, have known about the climate impact of their products for decades.

DEP faces future legal battle over seawalls that interfere with turtle nesting

State governments including Florida, the most heavily impacted state in the study, are already developing strategies for climate resilience, though adequate funding remains a challenge. Washington state is already making plans to relocate climate refugees in communities at risk of being lost.

Rural areas with a small tax base will likely be at a disadvantage when competing for federal funds. For Dames Quarter, Md. Still, relocation comes with its own set of expenses.


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The report notes that governments that fail to protect private property may be required to compensate property owners for the value of property abandoned due to rising sea levels. Disclosure: This study was conducted by the Center for Climate Integrity, a nonprofit whose executive director, Richard Wiles, is on the board of Climate Communications and Law, the publisher of Climate Liability News.

The natural ordinary high water mark, seen here where the beach slopes upwards, signifies the farthest reaches of the lake under normal conditions.

The problem with just building walls

Determining that line is important. In addition to settling the question of public beach access, the decision could also affect economic development and the way people build houses.

And it could decide whether those residents can build their seawalls. The Wisconsin and Michigan Supreme Courts have ruled on similar cases in recent years; both found the natural ordinary high water mark to be the boundary between private and public property.

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Sharkey expects a ruling from the Indiana Court of Appeals in the fall, though she says the Indiana Supreme Court is likely to be the ultimate decider in the case. Menu Home News Schedule Share Tweet Email.


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