Climate change is no longer a distant threat. We are living with the
reality of it, right here and right now. The impacts of climate
disruption in American states like Louisiana, North Carolina and
California — and around the world — are clear, costly, and widespread as storms, floods and droughts become more severe and less predictable.
An estimated 840 million people around the world live with the risk
of coastal flooding, and for coastal communities, the health of their
economies is directly related to the health of their coastal ecosystems.
For example, in 2012, while Hurricane Sandy did tremendous damage to
the eastern U.S., coastal wetlands likely saved more than $625 million in flood damages across 12 states.
Nature, including coral reefs, mangroves, wetlands, sand dunes and
healthy beaches, are the first lines of defense to slow waves, reduce
flooding and protect coastal people and property. Seawalls, breakwaters
and sand bags often come to mind as traditional disaster preparedness
tools, but these are not the only options. And sometimes they aren’t
even the best option.
Coral reefs protect 200 million people around the world. A healthy
coral reef can reduce 97 percent of a wave’s energy before it hits the
shore, and just 100 meters of mangroves can reduce wave height by 66
percent. These nature-based solutions are cost-effective,
self-maintaining and adaptable to sea-level rise. And they also offer
other benefits to communities that traditional “grey infrastructure”
solutions simply can’t, including improved water quality, fish
production and new ecotourism opportunities.