Climatic Change

, Volume 152, Issue 2, pp 275–289 | Cite as

Paying to save the beach: effects of local finance decisions on coastal management

  • Megan MullinEmail author
  • Martin D. Smith
  • Dylan E. McNamara


As sea level rises and storm frequency and severity increase, communities worldwide are investing in coastline management projects to maintain beach widths and dunes that support recreational amenities and mitigate storm risks. These projects are costly, and differences in property owners’ returns from maintaining wide beaches will influence community-level support for investment in shoreline defense. One way to account for these differences is by funding the project through a tax instrument that imposes the heaviest cost on residents who benefit most from beach nourishment. Some communities along the US east coast have adopted this approach. We use an agent-based model to evaluate how the imposition of project costs affects coastline management over the long-term. Charging higher tax rates on oceanfront properties reduces desired beach width among those owners but increases desired width for owners of inland properties. The aggregate impact on beach width depends on coastline shape and development patterns that determine the balance between these two groups, heterogeneity of beach width preferences and climate change beliefs, and levels of participation in local politics. Overall, requiring property owners who benefit most from beach nourishment to bear the highest cost results in wider beaches. The result suggests that delineating tax rates to account for unequal benefits of local public goods across taxpayers could facilitate local investment in climate change adaptation.


Climate change Adaptation Beach nourishment Public finance Local politics 



We thank Debra Javeline, Aseem Prakash, Nives Dolsak, two anonymous reviewers, and discussants and participants at the Vanderbilt Urban Political Economy Conference, the Adapting to Climate Change Workshop at University of Notre Dame, and the mini-conference on collaboration at the 2017 American Political Science Association annual meeting for helpful feedback.

Funding information

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation grant CNH 1715638.

Supplementary material

10584_2018_2191_MOESM1_ESM.docx (50 kb)
Supplemental Table 1 (DOCX 50 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan Mullin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Martin D. Smith
    • 1
    • 3
  • Dylan E. McNamara
    • 4
  1. 1.Nicholas School of the EnvironmentDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Department of Physics and Physical OceanographyUniversity of North CarolinaWilmingtonUSA

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