The oceans are getting ever more crowded, and the sea floor has become a place to look out for.
In addition to rising sea levels, the ocean has become an increasingly crowded place to live and work, particularly for the elderly.
With sea levels increasing by roughly 1 foot per year, the cost of building a new home on the coast is increasing every year, said Laura Hildreth, senior program manager for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Climate and Atmospheric Research.
The agency is already facing increasing costs to house the elderly in coastal communities, but its cost of living is soaring even higher.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income in 2016 was $51,878, compared with $46,846 in 2017.
With the rising cost of housing, coastal communities have become increasingly reliant on the elderly, Hildsten said.
To help the elderly adapt to the changing climate, the federal government has made it easier for them to stay in their homes for up to 30 days each year by allowing them to temporarily lease their homes in some circumstances.
“We’ve seen an increase in people coming forward to us and saying, ‘I’m going to be able to stay home for a couple of weeks, and I think I might like it because I can still use my car or my house is a little bit bigger, or my backyard is more accessible,’ ” Hildred said.
And as the costs of living have gone up, so has the number of people living on the beach.
“So there’s a lot more people out there than ever before,” she said.
“And if we don’t adapt to it, we’re going to get worse at it.”
Hildrene said that if the elderly were able to temporarily move out of their homes to accommodate the rising costs of housing and transportation, they could save up to $250,000 per year.
“It’s not only a practical solution for the coastal community, but also a moral one,” she added.
While many of the benefits of living off the coast could be mitigated by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the air, there are a number of additional costs associated with living in a beach community, according to an analysis of Census data by the Center for Responsible Lifestyles, a nonprofit that advocates for the environment.
For example, living on shore is not only an expensive and difficult lifestyle, but it also raises the health risks for the population, said Rachel LeBlanc, a senior fellow at the Center.
The health risks associated with the coastal environment include respiratory diseases, obesity and chronic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes, she said, and there is a risk of infection from the sea water.
While the Coast Guard has a mandate to protect people living off shore, the Coast Conservancy, an environmental advocacy group, has criticized the Coast Guards and the U,S.
government for not doing more to protect the coastal economy.
“The Coast Guard and the Department of the Interior have not been effective in protecting our coastal communities from the consequences of climate change,” said Laura B. Kestenbaum, senior director of the Center’s Coastal Economy Initiative.
In an article for the Center, she wrote that the Coast guard “has historically been one of the only federal agencies that does not have an effective policy to manage the impact of climate,” and that coastal communities “are increasingly being affected by the rising sea level.”
And the coastal communities are not the only ones who face rising sea-level costs.
Hildes said that while the cost-of-living in coastal regions is higher than in the surrounding countryside, there is no one policy to help people living in coastal areas adapt to these costs.
“One of the most important things that can help is making sure that we understand how coastal communities can mitigate their costs by adapting to these increases in sea level,” Hilder said.
For the elderly and people with disabilities, the biggest challenge is how to adapt to living in such a changing climate.
The U.N. has set a goal to reduce the impact that climate change has on coastal communities by 2050, which means that coastal populations will need to increase their spending on transportation, health care, housing, education, social services and other necessities.
“As we continue to experience rising sea water levels, we must consider how we can make sure that the coastal ecosystems that make up our communities are still able to adapt and that we are able to preserve and protect them,” Hilgert said.