Surf threatens beach houses on Dauphin Island, Alabama, September 4, 2011 during Tropical Storm Lee.
AP Photo/Dave Martin
"Building back better" refers to making communities more disaster-proof and resilient after they take a hit. But instead, some U.S. owners are building back bigger homes in vulnerable places.
Underwater view of waves breaking over a healthy coral reef, reducing wave energy at the shoreline that can cause flooding.
Curt Storlazzi, USGS
A new report shows that coral reefs reduce damage from floods across the United States and its trust territories by more than $1.8 billion every year – and pinpoints that value state by state.
Osprey on a nesting platform in Massachusetts.
Chemical pollution and hunting pushed Ospreys to the edge of extinction in the mid-20th century. Today, they have rebounded and can be spotted worldwide, often nesting on manmade structures.
Marshes at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Marshes, swamps and other kinds of wetlands provide valuable services, such as effective natural flood control. But they are being destroyed for development in many parts of the world.
Mangrove forest in Pichavaram, Tamil Nadu, India.
Mangrove forests along the world's tropical and subtropical coasts store enormous quantities of 'blue' carbon – especially in river delta zones, where soil builds up quickly.
Protecting coastal wetlands, like this slough in Florida’s Everglades National Park, is a cost-effective way to reduce flooding and storm damage.
Coastal development is destroying marshes, mangroves and other wetlands that provide valuable protection from hurricanes and storms. Research shows these benefits can be worth millions of dollars.
A street sign sticks up from floodwaters after Hurricane Florence in Nichols, South Carolina, September 21, 2018.
AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Hurricanes frequently move inland in the southeast US, causing widespread river flooding, but emergency plans focus on protecting people in coastal communities.
Flooding in Kinston, North Carolina during Tropical Storm Florence, September 14, 2018.
NC National Guard
Widespread flooding in North Carolina from Hurricane Florence shows the need for better advance planning in inland areas of the south and mid-Atlantic, especially near rivers.
Cumberland Island National Seashore off the coast of Georgia.
How do the narrow ribbons of sand that line the Atlantic and Gulf coasts withstand the force of hurricanes? The answer lies in their shape-shifting abilities.
Beach erosion in Nags Head, North Carolina, photographed May 15, 2005.
Many US coastal towns are building defenses to protect against rising seas and storms. This can encourage people to stay in place when they should be moving inland.
Big Sur coastline.
Ashley Spratt, USFWS
For 50 years California has used laws and policies to manage development along its 1,100-mile coastline and preserve public access to the shore. Climate change will make that task harder.
The original conflict between development and preservation of natural assets is broadening as the risks of climate change become ever more obvious.
Conflicts over coastal areas have largely been between development and preserving what makes these attractive places to live. Rising sea levels are now complicating our relationship with the coast.
National Guard soldiers inspect homes in Rockaway Park, Queens, New York, after Superstorm Sandy, 2012.
Spc. Zane Craig, PA National Guard/Flickr
As Atlantic hurricane season opens on June 1, eastern U.S. cities can prepare by updating laws, codes and ordinances that hamper rebuilding after storms.
While some councils wish to take a long-term view of what can reasonably be done in the face of sea-level rises, private property owners just want their homes protected.
Many properties are at risk from rising sea levels, with owners and councils at odds over the costs of defending these. NSW law reform may lead to more forward-looking climate change adaptation.
Coastal communities around Australia are facing the rising threat of coastal erosion.
Coastal communities include 24 federal seats held by margins of 5% or less, and their local councils are pressing the Australian government to show more urgency about the impacts of climate change.
In the aftermath of 2012’s deadly Hurricane Sandy, New York launched a US$20 billion plan to defend the city against future storms as well as rising sea levels.
Managing the impacts of rising seas for some communities is being made more difficult by the actions of governments, homeowners – and even some well-intentioned climate adaptation experts.
The Curtis Island gas precinct is one of the biggest developments along the Great Barrier Reef coast.
The coast alongside the Great Barrier Reef is home to ports, farms, holiday resorts, and more than a million people. It all puts pressure on the Reef, and it's time for some firms plans to manage it.
The MV Shen Neng I spills oil onto the Great Barrier Reef in 2010. Large accidents are rare, but there is still very little monitoring of long-term chronic damage from shipping.
Port traffic near the Great Barrier Reef will more than double by 2025, as coal and other exports grow. While major incidents are rare, the chronic toll on the reef itself still remains largely unknown.
The World Heritage Committee has called for a comprehensive assessment not just of the threats to the Great Barrier Reef, but of their cumulative effect.
AAP Image/Australian Institute for Marine Science, Ray Berkelmans
The government says it has met all of the recommendations for safeguarding the Great Barrier Reef. But a close reading of the dozens of UN recommendations shows that many have been only partly fulfilled.
It’s not always as ostentatious as Dubai, but our coastlines are home to ever-growing numbers of manmade structures.
Urban sprawl has spread to the sea, as more and more man-made structures are being built along the world's coastlines. Just as we do on land, we need to think about how to build sustainably at sea.