Rising Sea Levels Impact Economy of Chesapeake Bay Region: A Report

A new report has found that rising sea levels in the Chesapeake Bay region will put 263,500 jobs and more than $11 billion in wage income at risk of once-in-a-century flooding by 2050. The study states that almost 180,000 people (7.4% of jobs in the region) will be exposed to once-in-a-century floods in Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay region by 2050, and $6.1 billion in wage income is at risk during the same period. The report also notes that of Virginia’s 134 counties, 42 are expected to be affected by rising sea levels by 2050.

Yanjun “Penny” Liao, a fellow at Resources for the Future and co-author of the report, suggests that state-level solutions include better coordination between resilience plans and incentives for economic development. Liao emphasizes that subsidies must be structured to ensure that the economy adapts to increased risks in highly at-risk regions without putting them in the most exposed areas.

The report does not consider how climate change has intensified hurricanes in recent years. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that 60 major weather events will occur between 2020 and 2022, causing over $445 billion in damage. Liao notes that Virginia and Maryland are already incorporating climate change into economic development subsidies and incentives and suggests that other states consider similar policies to become more proactive in their resilience planning.

Liao suggests that state and local governments take aggressive planning measures and invest more money in developing areas such as higher grounds and locations. This would allow some facilities and jobs to be gradually moved to lower-risk areas, strengthening the local economy in the Chesapeake Bay region. Virginia will seed $25 million from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in early 2022 to establish a resilience fund.

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