Cantwell Says Rising Sea Level Projections Underscore Need for Action on Coastal Resiliency

February 15, 2022

NOAA-led report projects a century of sea level rise in next 30 years 

Coastal communities need resources to boost resiliency in face of climate change

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, Chair of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation reacted to a NOAA-led report released today which predicts sea levels along the U.S. coastline will rise an additional 10-12 inches by 2050 – as much as we have experienced over the last 100 years. According to the report, sea levels along the Washington state coastline are expected to rise an average of four to six inches, underscoring the need to ensure coastal communities have the resources to build resiliency and adapt to climate change.

“Coastal communities in Washington state are extremely vulnerable to sea level rise and coastal hazards and that’s why we must continue to push forward to help communities construct climate resilient infrastructure and habitat,” Sen. Cantwell said. “Today’s NOAA report is alarming – in the next 30 years the sea will rise as much as it has in the last 100 years. We have to ensure that our coastal communities have the tools and resources to prepare and adapt to climate change and sea level rise.” 

The NOAA-led Sea Level Rise Technical Report provides the most up-to-date sea level rise projections for all U.S. states and territories by decade for the next 100 years and beyond, based on a combination of tide gauge and satellite observations and all the model ensembles from the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The report projects sea levels along the coastline will rise an additional 10-12 inches by 2050, with specific amounts varying regionally, mainly due to land height changes. The United States is expected to experience as much sea level rise by the year 2050 as it witnessed in the previous hundred years.

The report also finds that the sea level rise expected by 2050 will create a profound increase in the frequency of coastal flooding, even in the absence of storms or heavy rainfall. 

Sen. Cantwell has a long history of advocating for programs that support coastal resilience. She worked to include over $2.7 billion in the bipartisan Infrastructure law to support programs like the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Coastal Resilience program, NOAA’s Community-based restoration grants to address coastal restoration and fish passage, the Marine Debris Removal programs, and funding specific to improving coastal and inland flood mapping and forecasting. In the last two years she has sponsored the National Sea Grant College Program, the Coordinated Ocean Research Act, and the Digital Coast Act, which together help to fill data gaps for coastal management issues, support university led research, and expand community level resilience programs. Prior to that she has led the effort to build resilience from Tsunami Preparedness and led annual requests for the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund that support tribes and local restoration practitioner in projects that also support coastal resilience. 

Sen. Cantwell led the effort to ensure the Build Back Better legislation included $7.9 billion dollars in funding for programs that will help reach carbon reduction goals, protect communities, and restore coastal and marine habitat for critical species like Pacific Northwest salmon.

The report updates the federal government’s 2017 sea level rise projections, and provides additional information on tide, wind, and storm-driven extreme water levels affecting current and future coastal flood risk. A suite of federal tools are using this data, including the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer, which are critical to the Administration’s commitment to tackle the climate crisis by making actionable climate data accessible to those who need it.

The Interagency Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flood Hazard and Tool Task Force is composed of NOAA, NASA, EPA, USGS, DoD, FEMA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as well as several academic institutes. The report leverages methods and insights from both the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report and supporting research for the U.S. DoD Defense Regional Sea Level database.