Americans Back Extreme Weather Preparations In Coastal Areas
March 29, 2013

Poll Shows That Most Americans Express Support For Stronger Coastal Development Codes

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

Whether they believe in climate change or not, a majority of Americans want additional measures put in place to prevent destruction from massive storms like Hurricane Sandy and future sea level rise, according to a new Stanford University survey.

A majority of survey participants also agreed that those living in high-risk areas should foot the bill for the new measures and that these investments will not be a burden to the economy.

"People support preventive action," said survey director Jon Krosnick, a Stanford professor of communication, "and few people believe these preparations will harm the economy or eliminate jobs.”

“In fact, more people believe that preparation efforts will help the economy and create jobs around the U.S., in their state and in their town than think these efforts will harm the economy and result in fewer jobs in those areas,” he said. “But people want coastal homeowners and businesses that locate in high-risk areas to pay for these measures."

The survey could be very informative for policymakers in coastal counties, who are expected to see a sharp rise in population over the coming decades, according to a recent report from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The nationwide survey, which was given in both English and Spanish, included 1,200 people, and was taken after the recent impacts of Hurricane Sandy. A majority of respondents, 82 percent, agree that the world's temperature is rising, and 73 percent of respondents said that the expected sea level rise poses both a current and future threat to the United States. Almost 75 percent of those surveyed said they think sea level rise will translate to more significant storm damage. Sixty percent of those who said they did not believe in global warming said they would like to see damage prevention measures.

"The question is, how does public support for preparation translate to action?" asked Meg Caldwell, executive director of the Center for Ocean Solutions. "Our impulse is to try to move quickly to put communities back together the way they were after devastation.”

“But that impulse often leads to doubling down on high-risk investments, such as rebuilding in areas likely to experience severe impacts,” she said. “To move toward long-term resiliency for coastal communities, we need to seize opportunities to apply new thinking, new standards and long-term solutions."

The survey also found that Americans prefer a pro-active approach. When asked if coastal communities should prepare for the effects of sea level rise or wait for further assessment, 82 percent favored preparation.

Stanford surveyors also asked participants about specific strategies that coastal communities could use to mitigate damage.

"People are least supportive of policies that try to hold back Mother Nature," Krosnick said. "They think it makes more sense to recognize risk and reduce exposure."

According to the survey, 48 percent of respondents support sand dune restoration and 33 percent favor sand replenishment for beaches. Thirty-seven percent support relocating structures away from high-risk areas and 33 percent support erecting sea walls.

Krosnick attributed perceived costs as a deterrent for those considering sea wall construction.