A Plan for ‘Managed Retreat’ in the Battle Against Climate Change

University of Delaware Prof. A.R. Siders and two fellow researchers wrote an article for the journal 'Science' that makes the case for coastal communities to actively plan a retreat from at-risk areas. (Image: Kate Marx and Jeffrey C. Chase)
University of Delaware Prof. A.R. Siders and two fellow researchers wrote an article for the journal 'Science' that makes the case for coastal communities to actively plan a retreat from at-risk areas. (Image: Kate Marx and Jeffrey C. Chase)

When it comes to climate change, moving people and development away from at-risk areas can be viewed, not as a defeat, but as a smart strategy that allows communities to adapt and thrive.

That’s the case for carefully planned “managed retreat” made by three environmental researchers in an article published in the Policy Forum section of the journal Science.

The article was written by lead author A.R. Siders of the University of Delaware, with co-authors Miyuki Hino and Katharine J. Mach of Stanford University and the University of Miami, respectively. Siders, who is a core faculty member of UD’s Disaster Research Center and an assistant professor of public policy and administration and of geography, said:

Moving away from coastal and other endangered areas usually occurs after disaster strikes, she said, and is often handled inefficiently and haphazardly. Instead, the researchers argue that retreating from those areas should be done thoughtfully, with planning that is strategic as well as managed. Siders said:

In the Science paper, the researchers point out that retreat is a difficult and complex issue for many reasons, including the short-term economic gains of coastal development, subsidized insurance rates and disaster recovery costs, and people’s attachment to the place where they live and to the status quo.

(Illustrations by Kate Marx and Jeffrey C. Chase)

The researchers point out that retreat is a difficult and complex issue for many reasons. (Image: by Kate Marx and Jeffrey C. Chase)

Also, when disaster strikes, the more affluent residents are more able to relocate, often leaving behind those who don’t have the financial resources to move. Hino said:

The researchers take the long view, noting that retreat may be the answer to climate change in some areas, but it may not be a step that’s necessary this year or even this decade. Mach explained:

The paper makes note of a variety of areas where additional work is needed, including coordination of various levels of government and support for relocation assistance programs.

(Illustrations by Kate Marx and Jeffrey C. Chase)

The paper makes note of a variety of areas where additional work is needed. (Image: by Kate Marx and Jeffrey C. Chase)

First, Siders said, communities must identify which areas they most want to protect and how to encourage and assist relocation, saying:

Provided by: Ann Manser, University of Delaware [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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