Adaptation Toolkit: Sea Level Rise and Coastal Land Use

Jessica Grannis
Created: 10/30/2011 -


From the Executive Summary:

Governments have powerful reasons to begin planning and adapting now. Emergent ad-hoc responses to climate impacts will put people, property, and scarce financial resources at risk. However, governments need not invent entirely new methods to address these impacts. State and local governments have an assortment of tools that they have used to address other land-use problems (such as flooding and sprawl) that they could refashion and use to adapt. This Tool Kit describes 18 different land-use tools that can be used to preemptively respond to the threats posed by SLR. This Tool Kit focuses on land-use tools that could be used to adapt to impacts to the built environment (public and private coastal development and infrastructure).

In order to devise a comprehensive strategy, governments will need to determine which tools to employ given their unique socio-economic and political contexts. To this end, we also provide policymakers with a framework for decision making. We analyze each tool by (1) the type of power exercised to implement it (planning, regulatory, spending, or tax and market-based tools); (2) the policy objective that it facilitates (protection, accommodation, planned retreat, or preservation); and (3) the type of existing or potential land uses that the tool can be used to adapt (critical infrastructure, existing development, developable lands, and undevelopable lands). Finally, we provide a top-level analysis of the trade-offs between tools—the economic, environmental, and social costs and benefits, and the legal and administrative feasibility of implementing each tool.

Published On


The nonpartisan Georgetown Climate Center seeks to advance effective climate, energy, and transportation policies in the United States—policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help communities adapt to climate change.

The Center performs a vital role in the development of policy by:


Sector Addressed
Disaster Risk Management
Land Use Planning
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Make infrastructure resistant or resilient to climate change
Create or modify shoreline management measures
Governance and Policy
Develop / implement adaptive management strategies
Target Climate Changes and Impacts
Sea level rise
Habitat/Biome Type
North America
United States