Abstract: Sea level rise (SLR) is projected to impact approximately one billion people by 2100. For many coastal communities, retreat is the most viable long-term option due to exposure risk under SLR and increased coastal hazards. Our research analyzes the costs of retreating coastal development at an iconic beach in Hawaiʻi that is experiencing severe erosion. We assess three retreat approaches: all-at-once, threshold-based, and reactive. Utilizing detailed SLR modeling projected to the year 2100, we estimate the public and private costs of retreat approaches and the amount of increased beach area. We find an all-at-once approach is most costly but maintains the largest beach area over time. In contrast, a reactive approach has the lowest direct costs but offers the least beach area gained over time and incurs the greatest public safety and environmental risk. The threshold-based approach largely mitigates public safety and environmental risks while providing more beach area over time than the reactive approach with similar direct costs. We find that a threshold-based approach should be further explored as a SLR response for coastal communities to maintain their sandy beach areas. Our study informs coastal adaptation research and identifies a new framework to explore the financial costs alongside social and ecological values.

Setter, R.O., Han, R.X., Tavares, KD. et al. Managing retreat for sandy beach areas under sea level rise. Sci Rep 13, 11920 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-38939-4

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