Expert Report

Reducing Coastal Risks on the East and Gulf Coasts (2014)

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

Economic losses from coastal storms have increased substantially over the past century, largely due to increases in population and development in the most susceptible coastal areas. Climate change poses additional threats to coastal communities from sea level rise and possible increases in the strength of the most intense hurricanes. This report, produced at the request of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, examines coastal risk reduction strategies for the East and Gulf Coasts and principles to guide future investments. The report finds the nation has been largely reactive to date, with the majority of coastal-storm-related federal investments provided only after disasters occur -- and very little of that funding used for strategies that reduce the consequences of coastal storms, such as land purchase or hazard zoning. Given the enormous and rising costs of coastal disasters, a strategic national vision is needed for reducing risks, guided by a national coastal risk assessment that identifies areas most at risk. Benefit-cost analyses, constrained by acceptable risk (life safety, social, and environmental), is a reasonable framework for evaluating coastal risk management investments. Stronger incentives should be used to improve pre-disaster planning and mitigation efforts at the local level.

Learn more in this Report in Brief and a slideshow that shows how coastal risk has changed in recent decades.