Last week, I attended the 3rd annual ACCO Rising Seas Summit, which brought more than 300 professionals together to highlight the interrelationships between sea level rise, climate change, and extreme events. One topic discussed that is particularly interesting was adaptive migration, which looks at the affects an influx of new residents would have on an outside community if they were forced to relocate due to sea level rise or flooding.
As the shorelines gradually advance inward, there will be an effect on population densities in coastal communities that can easily be overlooked and therefore is unplanned for. Working class families with property in active flood zones will eventually find themselves confronted with storm surge, ongoing flood events, and wind-borne debris that will force them to relocate. As these populations become displaced and need to migrate inland, we can project the neighboring communities who are not directly affected will see a surge in their population numbers.
As those communities grow, we as planners must address if the area can sustain the newcomers. Is there enough available housing? If these are people with vehicles, do we have sufficient parking options or are we investing in better public transportation? Can the sanitary sewer system handle the additional waste? There are countless other examples to consider and we should be planning for the shifting of these cultural boundaries. As with all resilient strategies, we must have a team mentality; we are all in this together.