Economic Toll of Sea Level Rise Could Be Significant in Hampton Roads, Study Finds



Elizabeth Andrews, director      George Van Houtven, director
Virginia Coastal Policy Center      and senior economist
[[w|eaandrews]], 757-221-1078      RTI International, 919-541-7150

Economic toll of sea level rise could be significant in Hampton Roads, study finds

A new study commissioned by the Virginia Coastal Policy Center (VCPC) at William & Mary Law School, "Costs of Doing Nothing," projects that absent any adaptive measures, sea level rise could exact a profound economic toll on the Hampton Roads region in coming decades, more than tripling the annual flood damages and economic impacts from coastal storms by the year 2060.

"It is our hope that the findings of this important study will help to educate members of the public and elected officials on the economic risks that sea level rise presents to the future sustainability of the Hampton Roads region," said Elizabeth Andrews, Director of the Virginia Coastal Policy Center.
The report was authored by the research institute, RTI International.
George Van Houtven, senior researcher for RTI, added, "We are hopeful that this study will serve as an important step in developing a firm understanding of how a community can benefit from adaptation."

To reach its conclusions, Van Houtven noted, RTI researchers relied on two potential sea level rise scenarios: one where water levels rise by 0.5 meters (predicted by the year 2040) and another where water levels rise by 0.75 meters (predicted by the year 2060).  RTI selected these sea level rise scenarios based on research and predictions from William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).

RTI researchers concluded that if no protective efforts are made, sea level rise will substantially increase the expected cost of coastal flood damages to the region's homes in any given year from $12 million with no sea level rise to about $50 million with a sea level rise of .5 meters (by the year 2040) and over $100 million annually with a sea level rise of .75 meters (by the year 2060).
Addressing the impact of sea level rise on the regional and state economy, the report also estimates the impact from a 100-year storm event under different sea level rise conditions.

* With no sea level rise, such an event would reduce total household income in the region by an estimated $611 million in the year of the storm, which translates to an average of roughly $940 in lost income per household.

* With sea level rise of 0.5 meters (by the year 2040), it would decrease total household income by about $1.1 billion, or an average loss of $1,760 per household in the region.

* If sea level rises by 0.75 meters (by the year 2060), the researchers anticipate that household income in the region would fall by $2.2 billion, or roughly the loss of $3,370 per household.

A summary of the report and the full report is available online here (opens. pdf). In addition to Van Houtven, the primary authors of the report from RTI are Daniel Lapidus, Justine Allpress, and Benjamin Lord. Funding for the study was provided by blue moon fund.