October of 2016 brought Hurricane Matthew to coastal Virginia, providing once again an illustration of the vulnerability of the Hampton Roads region and economy to the threats and impacts of flooding and the role of sea level rise in those impacts. The hurricane prompted Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe to state, “Climate change is real. Sea-level rise is happening. We’ve got to get into the game.” Indeed, sea level rise, combined with 14 to 17 inches of rain that fell in the region during the hurricane, damaged over 2,000 homes (many that were outside the flood zone and not covered by flood insurance), displaced around 620 individuals, and caused over $13.2 million in estimated damages of public facilities and structures.

Increased recognition of this vulnerability is taking place at all levels of government, but the true costs of inaction have yet to be quantified. This study conducted by the Research Triangle Institute (RTI), entitled the Costs of Doing Nothing: Economic Consequences of Not Adapting to Sea Level Rise in the Hampton Roads Region, is a first step to understanding the costs of failing to act. The study, produced for the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William & Mary Law School (VCPC), through funding from the blue moon fund, models the effects of not implementing any specific measures to mitigate the negative impacts of sea level rise for Virginia’s Hampton Roads coastal communities.

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

This abstract has been adapted from the report's front matter.

Document Type

Sea Level Rise and Recurrent Flooding

Publication Date