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Coast and Climate Change Project

Surging Waters: Science Empowering Communities in the Face of Flooding is a report produced by AGU, a global not-for-profit scientific society dedicated to advancing the Earth and space sciences for the benefit of humanity. The report is reviewed by leading experts in these fields.

Surging Waters: Science Empowering Communities in the Face of Flooding – the report


NRDC, Going Under: Long Wait Times for Post-Flood Buyouts Leave Homeowners Underwater (2019) (Original LInk)

Sea level rise and increased flooding are already affecting homes and communities across the United States. The hard truth is that these climate change impacts will make it increasingly difficult for people to stay in the places where they live today. Among the millions who could be displaced in the coming decades, many will need assistance to move to higher ground. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has funded thousands of voluntary buyouts, in which local or state governments purchase flood-damaged properties from willing sellers at pre-flood values and preserve the land as open space. However, FEMA’s current buyout programs already struggle to meet existing need, with years-long wait times that can make this option difficult to pursue and contribute to inequities in disaster recovery.

NRDC reviewed nearly 30 years of FEMA data on buyout funding and found that it takes a median of more than 5 years between a flood and the completion of a FEMA-funded buyout project. While every buyout project is different, one thing is clear: long wait times make buyouts less accessible, less equitable, and less effective for disaster mitigation and climate adaptation. Addressing this issue is essential to making FEMA-funded buyouts a more viable option as climate change increases flooding throughout the United States. This report describes approaches for improving the current system, as well as new buyout models that NRDC believes are worth exploring by FEMA, other federal agencies, and state and local governments.

Qualified Immunity from Constitutional Torts

Posted on: September, 13 2019 10:25 pm

Cleveland v. Bell , 5th Cir., No. 18-30968, 9/13/19

Prison nurse who ignored the deceased prisoner’s requests for medical care found to have qualified immunity from a 1983 claim. She did not show conscious indifference to his plight because she believed he did not need medical care:

“The Supreme Court has made clear that actual knowledge is an essential element of Plaintiffs’ burden, as mere negligence cannot establish a constitutional violation. Given the lack of evidence about Nurse Bell’s subjective awareness of a substantial risk of serious harm to Cleveland, Plaintiffs cannot show a constitutional violation at step one of the qualified-immunity analysis.” at 6, citations omitted.

NOAA, 2018 State of U.S. High Tide Flooding with a 2019 Outlook, NOAA Technical Report NOS CO-OPS 090 (June 2019)


NOAA tide gauges are measuring rapid changes across the entire severity-spectrum of coastal flood risk along U.S. coastlines due to RSL rise. The most noticeable impact of RSL rise is the increasing frequency of HTF (sometimes referred to as ‘nuisance’ or ‘sunny day’ flooding), which typically causes minor and disruptive impacts. However, within many rural and urban U.S. coastal communities, the cumulative effects of more HTF upon public-works systems, roads, first floors of businesses, and residences (among others) is becoming a serious problem. Because of this, communities need projections for ‘next year’ and for the coming decades for preparedness and planning purposes to respond to the growing RSL-related HTF threat.

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Setzer, Joana, and Rebecca Byrnes. “Global trends in climate change litigation: 2019 snapshot.” (2019).

Headline issues

• Climate change litigation continues to expand across jurisdictions as a tool to
strengthen climate action, though more evidence of its impact is needed.
• Climate change cases have been brought in at least 28 countries around the
world, and of the recorded cases more than three quarters have been filed in
the United States.
• Most defendants are governments but lawsuits are increasingly targeting the
highest greenhouse-gas-emitting companies.
• Climate change-related claims are also being pursued by investors, activist
shareholders, cities and states.
• Climate change litigation in low- and middle-income countries is growing in
quantity and importance.


Climate change litigation is increasingly viewed as a tool to influence policy
outcomes and corporate behaviour. Strategic cases are designed to press national
governments to be more ambitious on climate or to enforce existing legislation,
while cases against major emitters seek compensation for loss and damage.
Routine planning and regulatory cases are increasingly including climate change
arguments, exposing courts to climate science and climate-related arguments
even where incidental to the main claim.


Environment and Climate Change

Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond. Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution. (p 23)

The Precautionary Principle

Posted on: February, 23 2019 10:57 pm

Bourguignon, Didier. “The precautionary principle: Definitions, applications and governance.” European Parliament Research Service Paper (2015).

Treaty on European Union, Article 191

2. Union policy on the environment shall aim at a high level of protection taking into account the diversity of situations in the various regions of the Union. It shall be based on the precautionary principle and on the principles that preventive action should be taken, that environmental damage should as a priority be rectified at source and that the polluter should pay.

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992)

Principle 15

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.