The typical displacement metric for sea-level rise adaptation planning is property inundation. However, this metric may underestimate risk as it does not fully capture the wider cascading or indirect effects of sea-level rise. To address this, we propose complementing it by considering the risk of population isolation: those who may be cut off from essential services. We investigate the importance of this metric by comparing the number of people at risk from inundation to the number of people at risk from isolation. Considering inundated roadways during mean higher high water tides in the coastal United States shows, although highly spatially variable, that the increase across the United States varies between 30% and 90% and is several times higher in some states. We find that risk of isolation may occur decades sooner than risk of inundation. Both risk metrics provide critical information for evaluating adaptation options and giving priority to support for at-risk communities.
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Data and results are presented on our interactive dashboard https://research.urbanintelligence.co.nz/slr-usa. Network nearest distance data are available on request. The remaining data are publicly available and detailed in Methods.
Code is available at https://github.com/urutau-nz/usa_slr.
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We thank D. Niemeier, National Academy of Engineering (NAE), for her review and comments. This research was supported by the National Academies Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellowship and the National Science Foundation (grant no. 1940273). The support of the sponsors is gratefully acknowledged. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations presented in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academies or the National Science Foundation. We also thank the University of Canterbury’s Cluster for Community and Urban Resilience (CURe) and the Department of Civil and Natural Resources Engineering.
T.M.L. and M.J.A. have shares in the risk consulting firm Urban Intelligence. A.C.R. declares no competing interests.
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Logan, T.M., Anderson, M.J. & Reilly, A.C. Risk of isolation increases the expected burden from sea-level rise. Nat. Clim. Chang. 13, 397–402 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-023-01642-3