Sea-Level Rise and Property Rights

December 2, 2012

Peter Byrne, faculty director of the Georgetown Climate Center, dives into some of the land use, takings, and regulatory challenges facing local governments in the wake of rising sea levels in a new law review article, entitled "The Cathedral Engulfed: Sea-Level Rise, Property Rights, and Time".

Below is an abstract of the article:

Sea-level rise will require many new initiatives in land use regulation to adapt to unprecedented climate conditions. Such government actions will prompt regulatory and other takings claims, and also will be shaped by apprehension of such claims. This article analyzes the categories of land use regulations and other government initiatives likely to be enacted to adapt to sea-level rise and anticipates the takings claims that may be brought against them. In addition to hard and soft coastal armoring, the article considers regulations intended to force or induce development to retreat from rising waters. Retreat regulations present difficult takings problems, because they may prohibit all economically valuable development on a lot. But the article suggests various ways to capitalize on the future nature of sea-level rise to structure regulations and other government initiatives to minimize the risk or amount of takings liability. It argues that takings doctrine should not be so rigid as to prevent needed systematic adaptation.

Click here to download the full article.