Coastal Adaptation Planning for Sea Level Rise and Extremes: A Global Model for Adaptation Decision-making at the Local Level Given Uncertain Climate Projections

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Delavane Turner, Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States
Understanding the potential economic and physical impacts of climate change on coastal resources involves evaluating a number of distinct adaptive responses. This paper presents a tool for such analysis, a spatially-disaggregated optimization model for adaptation to sea level rise (SLR) and storm surge, the Coastal Impact and Adaptation Model (CIAM). This decision-making framework fills a gap between very detailed studies of specific locations and overly aggregate global analyses. While CIAM is global in scope, the optimal adaptation strategy is determined at the local level, evaluating over 12,000 coastal segments as described in the DIVA database (Vafeidis et al. 2006). The decision to pursue a given adaptation measure depends on local socioeconomic factors like income, population, and land values and how they develop over time, relative to the magnitude of potential coastal impacts, based on geophysical attributes like inundation zones and storm surge. For example, the model's decision to protect or retreat considers the costs of constructing and maintaining coastal defenses versus those of relocating people and capital to minimize damages from land inundation and coastal storms. Uncertain storm surge events are modeled with a generalized extreme value distribution calibrated to data on local surge extremes. Adaptation is optimized for the near-term outlook, in an “act then learn then act” framework that is repeated over the model time horizon. This framework allows the adaptation strategy to be flexibly updated, reflecting the process of iterative risk management. CIAM provides new estimates of the economic costs of SLR; moreover, these detailed results can be compactly represented in a set of adaptation and damage functions for use in integrated assessment models. Alongside the optimal result, CIAM evaluates suboptimal cases and finds that global costs could increase by an order of magnitude, illustrating the importance of adaptive capacity and coastal policy.