News Brief

Rising Seas Will Cost at Least $400 Billion in the U.S.

Defending against sea-level rise will be almost as expensive as building the interstate highway system, according to a recent report.

High Tide Tax report cover from Center for Climate Integrity

Per capita costs would exceed a million dollars in some communities.

Image: Center for Climate Integrity
Protecting roads, railways, and other public infrastructure from rising seas is going to be expensive. A recent report from the Center for Climate Integrity and Resilient Analytics is the first to tally the costs—an estimated $400 billion over the next 20 years. “Protecting America from climate change will be the most all-encompassing transformation of civil society ever undertaken,” the report authors say, calling the task “an unprecedented reinvention of the world we live in.”

The report focuses on construction of seawalls and relies on conservative estimates. For example, it looks only at storm surge from one-year storms, because these are nearly guaranteed to happen annually, rather than at 100-year or 500-year storms. It projects only modest sea-level-rise, assuming some reductions in carbon emissions. “This conservative approach is by design and is intended to shine a light on near-term costs and choices that cannot be avoided,” the report notes.

The expense per capita in many communities will be enormous, contends the report, exceeding $1 million in many areas (the highest estimated cost per capita is $7,155,000 in Junction City, Washington). The authors recommend holding fossil fuel companies accountable for at least some of these expenses.

The full dataset is available, along with rankings of different communities’ projected costs.

More on resilient design

Resilience Is Scaling Up

When Hurricane Harvey Hit, the Texas Medical Center Stood Ready

The Four Core Issues to Tackle for Resilient Design (And the Programs That Can Help)

Warm Globally, Flood Locally: Water Crises Loom for U.S. Cities

For more information:

Center for Climate Integrity

Published December 2, 2019

Melton, P. (2019, November 18). Rising Seas Will Cost at Least $400 Billion in the U.S.. Retrieved from

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