America’s coastal cities are global centers of innovation, output, employment, and trade. The communities built around the country’s beaches and working harbors capitalize on marine natural resources to promote fishing, tourism, aquaculture, and other industries. As a result, America’s coastal counties produce nearly half of U.S. economic output while taking up less than 10 percent of its land area. And they continue to grow faster in population than the nation as a whole. Put simply, America’s coasts are a pillar of success and vitality for the entire nation.
Yet even as population and production continue to concentrate along U.S. coasts, overwhelming physical evidence shows that coastal counties sit squarely in the destructive path of climate change. Intensifying storms, accelerating sea-level rise, chronic “nuisance” flooding, and the intrusion of salt water into aquifers and wastewater infrastructure are all prime examples of the impacts already beginning to undermine the attributes that make America’s coasts special. Scientists say that these impacts will only worsen during the century ahead.
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