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The Southeastern coast is one of most exquisite and treasured natural resources. The rapidly accelerating impacts of climate change, sea level rise, intensifying storms and flooding also make it one of the most at risk.
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) created The Changing Coast, an interactive website and map that show how rising seas and a changing climate are reshaping the Southern coast. This innovative GIS tool will help communities and decision makers understand the myriad ways our coast is changing and hopeful become better stewards.
“Our goal is that The Changing Coast will be used by ordinary citizens concerned about the places they live, recreate, and visit,” says SELC South Carolina Office Director Chris DeScherer. “This tool enables communities on the coast to consider appropriate, safe places to put new development as well as where building might be too risky or make flooding worse. Our partner groups who often call on us, will now be able to use the tool to do an initial evaluation of a proposed project.”
Hundreds of maps illustrate environmental threats including climate change and sea level rise but The Changing Coast is different.
“A lot of planning scenarios use out-of-date projections or don’t look far enough into the future. The Changing Coast is designed to capture both the present and the future,” said Jovian Sackett, Director of Geospatial Science. “By making the information easily digestible and available to the public, it allows the general population to understand potential threats facing coasts all in one place which helps paint a more realistic picture of our present and future.”
The Changing Coast also includes the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) which is published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the map layers to represent characteristics of how coastal communities are structured, and put environmental justice up front. It uses 15 U.S. Census Bureau data fields on things like race/ethnicity, socioeconomics, transportation, and household composition. The index allows us to look at communities as a whole and focus on the neighborhoods where there are concentrations of folks living with a higher risk of being impacted by weather disasters.
Jovian Sackett, Director of Geospatial Science, says The Changing Coast isn’t just for scientists. It is designed to pull a variety of information together and provide a way to share that with folks who are engaged on coastal issues, whether they’re a concerned resident, a journalist, or someone involved in local or state politics.
Sackett says users should look at The Changing Coast as a way to understand their community, not their individual homes. “It is designed and intended for community-level planning because the data are not clear or accurate enough to represent what’s really happening on a house level.”
**Cover Photo Credit - Natural Resources Defense Council