25 June 2007

Global Climate Change: A Vacation Odyssey, Will NC Beaches Be Gone?

Vacationing on the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, I'm always struck by the fragility of the landscape here and, indeed, the perseverance of the human communities along this chain of islands.

Now a new study called "Measuring the Impacts of Climate Change on North Carolina Coastal Resources," analyzes the impact of rising sea levels on property values, recreation and quality of life in coastal North Carolina.

The study was conducted by researchers from Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina Wilmington and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Their conclusion?

* North Carolina's coastal topography makes it especially vulnerable to sea level rise and hurricanes -- both economically and ecologically.

*The value of property at risk to sea-level rise in just four NC counties is US$6.9 million.

* A one- to three-foot rise in sea level along four North Carolina coastal counties could mean billions of dollars in private property losses over the next 75 years.

* Recreational fishing and beach trips also are vulnerable to increased erosion from sea level rise and hurricanes, resulting in potential loss of recreational and tourism benefits totalling US$3.9 billion.

* Business losses from hurricanes could increase by as much as US$157 million per storm event by 2080, potentially reaching US$1 bn per category 3 storm event.

All of this is sobering news for communities that derive their livelihoods in large part from an annual influx island visitors and second-home owners.

According to the study, by the year 2080, 14 of the 17 recreational swimming beaches in southern North Carolina could, without adaptation, erode all the way to the road, eliminating the possibility for beach recreation in those areas.

As the beach diminishes, lead author John Whitehead, a professor of economics at Appalachian State University, people will spend less time and money at the coast as a result of the lost recreational opportunities. Using economic models, Whitehead estimated the lost economic value for southern North Carolina beaches would total $3.9 billion over the next 75 years.

Meanwhile, coastal developers and private home communities are springing up in very unlikely places. Condos, golf courses, and resorts are popping up along the edges of coastal spits and dunes, and at least one development advertised its "deep water homes."

Deep water homes? Now there's a concept whose time may be coming. Scuba gear included.

In another curious development in a recent Coastal Living magazine: the state of Colorado advertized its charms to CL readers. Do they know something we don't know?

Read the full or summary reports: Measuring Impact NC

No comments: