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Evaluating sea-level rise vulnerability assessments in the USA

Abstract

Many coastal communities around the world are increasingly faced with pressure from sea level rise (SLR). Adapting to the impacts of SLR is now considered inevitable. Many coastal communities in the USA have started to invest in vulnerability assessments that seek to identify the degree of future risk induced by SLR and key vulnerable sectors as well as to provide a sound factual basis for designing and implementing adaptations. However, no study has systematically analyzed the content of these emerging assessments and their quality. This study aims to address this gap by evaluating 64 SLR vulnerability assessments in the USA using an established multi-criteria evaluation framework and by identifying governance factors that affect assessment quality. This study is the first baseline study to understand how the vulnerability of SLR has been assessed by US governments and, more importantly, shed light on pathways for their future improvement. Our analysis finds that the content and quality of the existing assessments vary widely. One-sided assessments that only consider physical exposure are common, and most assessments do not include plans for adaptations. The wealth of the area, amount of funding, mainstreaming efforts, and public awareness are all positively correlated with the assessment quality. We also find that assessments primarily authored by planning staff are lower in quality than those conducted through collaboration. Our findings offer comparative, empirical knowledge for urban planners and coastal managers to improve future vulnerability assessments and adaptation planning for SLR.

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Appendices

Appendix 1

Table 3 Sea-level rise vulnerability assessment evaluation matrix

Appendix 2

Table 4 Research sample list

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Fu, X., Sun, B., Frank, K. et al. Evaluating sea-level rise vulnerability assessments in the USA. Climatic Change 155, 393–415 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02488-5

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