With a modest splash, two public-interest think tanks this week released their "Resilient Coasts Blueprint," a thumbnail sketch of their proposed program for government and the private sector to come to grips with the significant, and growing, economic risk associated with development on the U.S. coastline. Included in the white paper are ideas such as tougher building codes, smarter land use policies, and support for a robust private insurance industry for coastal-related hazards. Sponsoring the study were Ceres, a "national network of investors, environmental organizations and other public interest groups working with companies and investors to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change," and the Heinz Center, a "nonprofit, nonpartisan institution dedicated to improving the scientific and economic foundation for environmental policy through multisectoral collaboration." The term "resilient coasts" has become something of a catch-phrase, or "meme," in recent years. Another PDF, this one hosted at the Ole Miss website, for example, authored by John Jacob of the Texas Sea Grant (Texas A&M) and Stephanie Showalter of the National Sea Grant Law Center (University of Mississippi), uses the same term in its title, "The Resilient Coast", and offers a somewhat more detailed exposition of many of the same ideas found in the Heinz/Ceres offering. And while the Heinz/Ceres "blueprint" glosses over some of the thorny jurisdictional issues involved in actually carrying out sophisticated land use planning that recognizes and adapts to coastal risks, Jacob and Showalter's document takes a much closer look at issues of national policy and local autonomy.
Shown here is the I-10 highway bridge near Pass Christian, Mississippi, damaged by Hurricane Katrina.One of the ideas in the Resilient Coasts Blueprint is to design bridge structures in a way that allows future modifications to adjust to higher storm surge events than originally expected, in the event that sea levels rise over the coming century as an effect of climate change. Photo Credit: John Fleck/FEMA But as an opening salvo, the Heinz and Ceres effort is interesting as much for who produced it, as for what it says. Two primary backers are The Travelers Companies, Inc. (a major insurer), and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (the nation's oldest business school). Also in the coalition, however, are such environmental groups as the Nature Conservancy and the National Wildlife Federation. Addressing the tough policy issues involved in making our coastlines ready for the coming century's hazards will require a major effort to reconcile widely varying political points of view. The latest Coastal Blueprint could be a beginning step in the process of bringing some of those interests together, and getting them on the same page.