The Costs of Doing Nothing: Sea Level Rise Synopsis for Hampton Roads Region

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The Costs of Doing Nothing: Sea Level Rise Synopsis for Hampton Roads Region

A VCPC report looks at the economic toll sea level rise could have on Hampton Roads without adaptive measures.

 Norfolk, Va. (Sept. 1, 2006) – Naval Station Norfolk, Va., suffered some flooding and minor wind damage as tropical storm Ernesto traveled through the Eastern Mid-Atlantic region with high winds, and flooding rain. Ernesto did reach Hurricane One status, but lost energy while traveling over the Florida peninsula. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Justin K. Thomas

In 2006 a Naval Station in Norfolk, Virginia suffered flooding as tropical storm Ernesto traveled through the Eastern Mid-Atlantic region. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Justin K. Thomas

This November, the Virginia Coastal Policy Center issued this report: “The Costs of Doing Nothing: A Sea Level Rise Synopsis for the Hampton Roads Region.”

This analysis, conducted by RTI International, and funded by the blue moon fund, looks at the economic toll that sea level rise could have on the Hampton Roads region if the community were to fail to take adaptive measures. The goal of the report is to help inform the public about the risks posed by sea level rise, and thereby assist coastal localities as they plan for this challenge.

The study concludes that sea level rise in the range of .5 meter to .75 meter (the levels predicted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science by the years 2040 and 2060, respectively) could increase the costs and economic damages from coastal flooding events by up to $100 million annually.

Among the study’s key findings are:

  • Sea level rise will substantially increase damages to residential properties in the Hampton Roads region. Whereas without sea level rise the expected damages in any given year are estimated to be roughly $12 million, these expected damages would increase to roughly $50 million annually with a sea level rise of .5 meter and to over $100 million annually with a sea level rise of .75 meter.
  • Sea level rise will significantly increase the regional economic impacts of large storm events. The decline in Gross Regional Product of the Hampton Roads economy as a result of a 100-year storm event would go from $611 million without sea level rise (in the year of the storm) to over $1 billion with sea level rise of .5 meter and over $2 billion with a sea level rise of .75 meter.

Raising significant interest, the report has been covered in the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post, along with many others.

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