Monday, July 09, 2007

When roads become the beachfront

Andy Coburn, associate director of the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines at Western Carolina University, sends along a clarification about research his organization participated in showing how our coastline is changing. I had mentioned in a column how rising sea level and beach erosion are gobbling up our beaches. He adds a key point he believes most folks missed:
Hi Jack,
I just wanted to point out that Ben Poulter, with the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, was a graduate student at Duke during part of his involvement in the report on the economic impacts of sea level rise. Dr. Pilkey also provided some information and insight.
I think a major point everyone is missing about this study is the fact that the only reason any beaches are predicted to disappear isn’t due to a rising sea level, but to the fact that as sea level rises, beaches move back until they eventually run into a road. So, in essence, it isn’t a rising sea level that’s the problem, it’s the road that’s placed too close to the migrating beach that’s the problem.
And why should anyone (besides beachfront property owners) care if coastal property is “lost”? It certainly doesn’t impact me. While I think the study definitely shines a light on the potential economic impacts of sea level rise, it also makes a number of assumptions that may or may not pan out (such as what people will and won’t due based on the width of a beach).
People will always go on vacation and spend money, whether it’s at the beach, in the mountains or at outlet malls. However, if we managed our beaches in a sustainable manner for the benefit of all NC citizens, instead of obsessing about trying to protect the status quo, there will always be beaches.
Cheers,
Andy Coburn
Research Faculty/Associate Director
Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines
294 Belk
Western Carolina University
Cullowhee, NC 28723
Tel: 828-227-3027
http://psds.wcu/edu
http://coastlines.blogspot.com

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