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What Is the Impact of Climate Change on Coastal Infrastructure?

Editorial Team
Editorial Team
climate change on coastal infrastructure

Coastal communities and infrastructure across the world have already been negatively impacted by climate change. However, experts predict far worse consequences for coastal regions if we don't act soon.

Around 10% of the world's population lives on the coastline or in low-lying lands. These areas are vulnerable to climate change effects such as sea level rises, coastal erosion, hurricanes, and high waves.

Because these areas are such critical economic zones, we must find a way to resolve this situation. One solution we have is to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Solar panels could provide a sustainable, renewable alternative source of energy. 

How Are Coastal Communities and Infrastructure Affected by Climate Change?

Plenty of evidence suggests climate change is already affecting coastal regions. Rising tide levels and ocean temperatures, extreme weather, and changing rain levels are all compelling arguments for human-caused climate change.

Islands and 95% of coastal regions face a threat from rising water levels caused by global warming during the 21st century. Flooding, increased water salinity, coastal erosion, and depletion of wetlands and groundwater can all cause immense damage to coastal life.

Some of the most worrying effects are:

  • Ecosystem damage
  • Disruption of essential services
  • Destruction of industries and communities

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How Sea Level Changes Will Harm Coastal Communities

Polar ice and glaciers are melting due to rising ocean temperatures. This thermal expansion of the ocean means there is less ice and more water. As a result, sea levels change.

In the US, coasts are desirable areas with vibrant economies. Coasts support and provide jobs in fishing, tourism, military defense, transportation, shipping, and more. All of these sectors will come under threat due to the effects of climate change. 

Additionally, damage to diverse ecosystems like deltas, beaches, and rivers will dramatically affect the lives of people, plants, and animals.

Flooding and heavy rain will also increase sea levels and destroy infrastructure. As these events unfold, reinvesting in repairs will become less justifiable. Many coastal communities will be left behind or neglected.

In the last 100 years, average sea levels have gone up by 10 to 12 inches. However, the worrying news is that this rate is accelerating. Experts predict that it will take about 30 years for the levels to rise another 10 to 12 inches, causing significant disruption to coastal life and infrastructure.

4 Ways Climate Change Will Impact Coastal Life

There are four separate areas we can use to forecast the damage climate change will do to coastal life and infrastructure.

Let's look at each one separately.


Physical climate change effects will include many things we take for granted:

  • Damage to buildings and structures from saltwater
  • Damage to critical infrastructure (roads, ports, internet, energy)
  • Disruptions of emergency services due to damaged infrastructure
  • Corrosion of pipes that provide clean drinking water

2. Economic 

Climate change will also cause vast economic disruption in coastal regions. Here are some of the significant risks we need to avoid:

  • Damage to ports leading to a loss of jobs, reduced economic activity, and economic depression
  • Inundation of ports in low-lying areas
  • Destruction of tourism, fishing, and aquaculture industries due to extreme weather, sea-level rises, and other global warming effects
  • Diminished tax bases and less investment, leading to broader social issues

3. Social

Social life in coastal communities will also come under pressure from climate change. Some of the effects we can expect to see are the following:

  • Decreased food production
  • Displacement of citizens due to the permanent displacement of water
  • Health risks and death
  • Negative social behaviors, higher crime, and conflict
  • Voluntary and involuntary migration

4. Environmental

Coastal environments will also suffer from wide-ranging effects including the following:

  • Destruction of ecosystems like sea beds, marshlands, coral, and ocean reefs by global warming, sea level rises, and atmospheric carbon dioxide
  • Reduced biodiversity in coastal areas due to harsh conditions
  • Erosion of protective mangrove forests
  • Rising ocean temperatures and acidification 
  • Increased risk of landslides and floods

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How Can We Counteract Climate Change Effects on Coastal Regions?

While climate change is a complex, multifaceted problem, there are things that we can do to help. Reducing global warming requires a significant shift in how we live, including where we draw energy from.

Fossil fuels release greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, accelerating global temperatures. Solar panels provide a genuine alternative that can produce power for everyone. Government-backed programs, like the federal solar tax credit can subsidize the costs of energy alternatives.

The popularity of solar power installation is increasing rapidly in the Greater Los Angeles area and throughout California because the cost of solar power has been going down and the state requires that 60% of its power come from green energy. 

Final Thoughts

Climate change is causing global warming that affects coastal communities and infrastructure. 1/10 of the world's population lives in coastal areas, so this threat is very real and causes a lot of worry.

However, if you want to do something to reduce global temperatures, you can switch to more sustainable types of energy, like solar power panels. To get the best value for your money, you will want to consider the top solar companies in your area.

Take the SmartSolar.org Quiz to Find Out If Solar Panel Installation is Right for You

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