Flooded coastal pier during high tide

Coastal practitioners around the world are already using sea level rise projections for adaptation planning. But it’s not clear how they decide what information to use or how best to use it to support the profound set of choices coastal communities now face. 

Locations of interview and survey respondents for the sea level rise investigation

To better understand how climate information is currently informing decisions and what can be done to improve decision support related to sea level rise, we employed a two-round, mixed-methods, social science approach. This work builds on the results of a recent survey of planners around the world (Hirschfeld et al., 2023), and helps to qualitatively fill in the gaps in knowledge about decision support by those planning for and making decisions about sea level rise. Round one consisted of in-depth, qualitative data collection followed by a round of quantitative data collection that built upon information gathered during the qualitative work. This methodology allowed us to dive deeply into the topics at hand with a diverse group of practitioners and then use the details we gathered to verify the impactfulness of the potential interventions with a broader group of experts. 

During the first round of data collection, our research team conducted a series of group interviews with 43 coastal managers from 20 states, Puerto Rico, and the Mariana Islands, which represent all EPA regions with coastlines. The collaborative workspaces that these processes enabled allowed for open, comfortable conversation and offered opportunities for participants to not only answer our research questions but also to learn from each other’s experiences. 

During the group interviews, we asked participants to provide specific examples of information, tools, or decision-support resources that would allow them to more effectively make decisions related to sea level rise. Using the list of 38 participant-identified “needs,” we designed a survey that allowed a broader group of coastal managers to weigh in on the level of impact each intervention would have on SLR planning and implementation. The survey was sent to 478 coastal managers and was administered from August 2023 to October 2023. 117 coastal managers from 23 states, Puerto Rico, and Barbados completed the entire survey. When the survey and group interview samples are combined (18 group interview participants also responded to the survey), this study includes perspectives of 142 coastal managers from 24 states, Puerto Rico, the Mariana Islands, and Barbados. 

Specific recommendations and investigation findings are forthcoming. For more information on this investigation, contact kelli.archie@agci.org.

Sea Level Rise and Coastal Planning Investigation Team

Kelli M Archie

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Research Affiliate

Daniella Hirschfeld

Utah State University
Assistant Professor

David Behar

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC)
Climate Program Director

James C. Arnott

Aspen Global Change Institute (AGCI)
Executive Director