Summary of Retreat from a Rising Sea

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Retreat from a Rising Sea book summary
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The “retreat” in this book’s title isn’t a description, but a prediction. Orrin H. Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis and Keith C. Pilkey – co-authors of previous environmental books – argue that rising sea levels will doom coastal development. They say that in many areas beach renourishment and seawall construction will prove expensive and futile. Decades from now, they predict, people will be forced to abandon Miami, New Orleans, Norfolk and other coastal cities. The authors criticize the US government’s flood insurance program for encouraging building in low-lying areas instead of strategizing movement away from the coasts. They also warn of the danger of locating nuclear plants near the shore. Climate change skeptics may not appreciate the Pilkeys’ fatalistic mindset. However, they also present a compelling overview of a potentially devastating problem and of what government is and isn’t doing to mitigate its risks. While always politically neutral, getAbstract recommends their insightful, well-researched report to investors, city planners, policy makers and anyone living near the sea.

About the Authors

Orrin H. Pilkey is James B. Duke professor emeritus at Duke University. Linda Pilkey-Jarvis is a geologist and Keith Pilkey is an administrative law judge. The three have collaborated on previous environmental books.



Fighting the Oceans

For two centuries, two trends have been on a collision course. Sea levels are rising, and people are moving closer to the water. Half of the globe’s population lives fewer than 40 miles from the coast, and many megacities are near the water. Spurred by ocean shipping and the tourism and recreation industries, coastal cities like New York, London and Hong Kong exert a strong allure. Authors Orrin H. Pilkey, Linda Pilkey-Jarvis and Keith C. Pilkey saw the dangers of coastal living firsthand. In 1969, Hurricane Camille damaged their family home in Waveland, Mississippi. When Hurricane Katrina hit with its 25-foot (nearly eight meter) storm surge in 2005, the water swept the house away. But people continue to flock to beachside property in Mississippi and elsewhere. After Katrina, vacant lots in Waveland went on the market for $700,000 to $800,000.

Burning fossil fuels affects sea level rise by releasing greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, which trap solar energy that would otherwise reflect back into space. Instead, it warms Earth’s atmosphere, causing ocean water to warm, expand and melt polar ice.

Ignoring rising sea levels and their...

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    C. W. 1 year ago
    Most scientists agree that the threats are real from man made planet warming. So what's the debate. The seas will rise the only question is when and how much. The coasts of North Carolina and Florida are stark reminders of what can happen.
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    K. B. 1 year ago
    Yet again here we see short term personal gain that eats reason and responsability.
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    A. A. 2 years ago
    I disagree to the extent this report criticizes the government actions listed - people have freedom to choose where they live and government is supporting their respective choices, nothing wrong with that. Moreover, there are no historical precedence of successful mass migrations/ relocations being suggested.

    Although, I agree there is insufficient action - public or private, in effectively fixing the problem that extravagant and irresponsible human activities has created, and this is an area this report is very weak in, like most all other on this topic.

    I suppose it is much easier and gratifying to scandalize the problem, complain others for inaction, and play no role in actually solving/ identifying solutions to the problem yourself.
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    A. A. 3 years ago
    Lack of political will