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How nations are coping with rising seas

By: Laura Moss on July 11, 2011, 10:19 a.m.
An aerial view of Kivalina, Alaska, and its seawalls

Photo: ShoreZone/Flickr

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Building seawalls

One of the first steps many countries take — if they can afford it — is to build seawalls to hold the tides back. In 2008, former Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom persuaded Japan to pay for a $60 million seawall of concrete tetrapods around the capital city of Male, and retaining walls have since been built on other islands. Island nations, such as Vanuatu, Tuvalu and Kiribati are also at risk, but sea wall construction is extremely costly, especially for those islands on the U.N.’s Least Developed Countries list.

Seawaters aren’t just intruding upon the lands of poor countries. In the U.S., Alaska's village of Kivalina (pictured) has constructed a wall to hold the waters back. Sea ice used to protect the barrier reef the village is situated on, but the ice melts sooner each year, leaving the community unprotected from storm waves. Even California coastal towns are preparing for rising waters. City planners in Newport Beach are raising seawalls, and new homes along the city’s harbor are being built on foundations several feet higher.