NC Ranks 3rd in US in costs to Protect Coast

By on August 4, 2019

The wall of sandbags in North Topsail Beach block the waves Sept. 13, 2018, as Hurricane Florence neared landfall. (Photo: North Topsail Beach)


Dare ranks 1st among N.C. counties

Coastal Review Online Staff Report

North Carolina can expect to have paid a minimum of $34.8 billion for building seawalls to protect coastal communities from rising seas by 2040, according to a recent report from the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development’s Center For Climate Integrity.

The center, which launched in 2017 to advance the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy sources, said North Carolina is the third-most costly state for building seawalls to safeguard businesses, homes, roads and entire communities from chronic flooding by 2040 under a moderate sea level rise scenario.

North Carolina also ranks third in the number of miles of seawalls, with 5,250 miles required for protection, according to the report, which recommends that polluters be held accountable for the costs.

“As things stand, oil and gas companies and other climate polluters who knew their products caused climate change at least 50 years ago, and then masterminded an exquisitely effective denial campaign for 30 years, are paying none of these costs,” according to the study’s recommendations. “And their position, as expressed in courtrooms across the country, is that they should continue to pay nothing at all.

“Regardless of your political persuasion or your views on energy policy or climate change, there is no avoiding the conclusion that the companies that made and promoted the products that they knew would irrevocably and radically alter the global climate, and then denied it, must pay their fair share to help the world deal with it. Failing to hold polluters to this basic responsibility would be to knowingly bankrupt hundreds of communities, standing idly by as they are slowly and inexorably swallowed up by the sea.”

This study purports to provide the first estimate for the contiguous United States of the costs associated with armoring areas of the coast that contain public infrastructure and that are projected to be flooded by sea level rise. The center partnered with Resilient Analytics, an engineering firm specializing in climate adaptation, to generate the estimated costs of constructing seawalls to protect public infrastructure.

In North Carolina, Dare is the No. 1 county for expense, with an estimated $5.5 billion. Carteret and Hyde counties follow, with $4 billion and $3.3 billion, respectively.

North Topsail Beach is the top coastal community, with $724 million in estimated expense. Ocracoke, Holden Beach and Nags Head follow, with $708 million, $432.8 million and $424.1 million, respectively.

The estimates are only a small portion of a soaring price tag for adaptation and resilience, the center said. Extreme weather, severe heat, heavy rain, drought, flooding and other conditions will also contribute to North Carolina’s costs to prepare for the effects of climate change.

As it stands, taxpayers are on the hook for the entire expense, the report’s authors said.

The center cites a survey that shows that 72% of North Carolina’s registered voters support holding oil and gas companies accountable for a share of the damage.


  • 1. Dare: $5.5 billion
  • 2. Carteret: $4.0 billion
  • 3. Hyde: $3.3 billion
  • 4. Beaufort: $2.8 billion
  • 5. Brunswick: $2.7 billion
  • 6. Onslow: $2.7 billion
  • 7. Pamlico: $2.5 billion
  • 8. Currituck: $2.2 billion
  • 9. Craven: $1.7 billion
  • 10. New Hanover: $1.6 billion


  • 1. North Topsail Beach: $724 million
  • 2. Ocracoke: $708 million
  • 3. Holden Beach: $432.8 million
  • 4. Nags Head: $424.1 million
  • 5. Jacksonville: $382.1 million
  • 6. Oak Island: $359.6 million
  • 7. Emerald Isle: $292.6 million
  • 8. Surf City: $283 million
  • 9. Topsail Beach: $270.5 million
  • 10. Duck: $255.7 million








  • S. hanes

    (Quote) “And their position, as expressed in courtrooms across the country, is that they should continue to pay nothing at all”

    Why should we go after the energy companies NOW after we enjoyed the benefits of decades of cheap energy? We can change but a blame mentality isn’t going to fix anything.

    Sunday, Aug 4 @ 9:21 pm
  • Amy

    Thank you for sharing the truth. We owe it to our children, grandchildren, and humanity in general. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about the Outer Banks, where I spent my 20’s and where I learned that community still does exist.

    “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we
    realize that one cannot eat money.“ -Native American Proverb

    Monday, Aug 5 @ 10:09 am
  • gsurf123

    Holding oil and gas companies responsible for you buying their product and using it is your own fault. Companies sell products that people want to buy (that is how they stay in business). Let’s just say that oil and gas companies all closed tomorrow. There would be virtually no way to get around except biking and walking, there would not be any chemicals to do things like clean drinking water, no more plastics, no way to move goods and basically no economy. All beaches would be closed for business including just about everyone in NC where no public transportation exists.

    Gas and oil have been taxed for close to hundred years and have provided and still provide for very good jobs where companies take care of the employees versus just being a number. Electric will not solve the problem as you need fossil fuels to keep the lights on or when your solar array can’t keep up. Of course you can buy big batteries for your house, but that has its own set of problems. Penalizing companies for doing business is not how you solve problems. If that were the case we should sue alcohol companies out of business for all of the damage drinking inflicts on humans (alcoholics, DUI’s, etc), property (crashes) and deer.

    Monday, Aug 5 @ 10:49 am
  • gsurf123

    “The center cites a survey that shows that 72% of North Carolina’s registered voters support holding oil and gas companies accountable for a share of the damage.”

    Of course they don’t because they do not want to take responsibility for:
    -choosing to live in non-walkable communities
    -driving cars
    -flying on airplanes
    -buying products at stores that are not local
    -going on vacation
    -using plastics
    -buying any imported goods (ie China)
    -commuting to work
    -living in the suburbs
    -having a home
    -having a car
    -wanting to buy everything at the cheapest price possible

    The list goes on and on. No one ever forced anyone to do anything of these things. Much like drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, driving recklessly, etc the choice was yours, not mine or someone else. Even the counties themselves are complicit by having tourism boards to get people to drive here and vacation. I’ll take quality of life and freedom to do as I please over someone telling me I can’t do this or that. If you were to ask that same 72% if they would agree to the restrictions on my list the percentage would be close to zero.

    Monday, Aug 5 @ 10:58 am
  • This article is stupid and has no basis in reality

    Why do you repeat this drivel. the study is based on ” to generate the estimated costs of constructing seawalls to protect infrastructure in the contiguous United States from sea-level rise. ”
    Now understand that seawalls are illegal in NC and seawalls have never been proposed as a possible solution to sea level rise in dare county or to my knowledge the state.
    BUT you poas this obviously incendiary article.
    Why not post about what governments in Dare County are actually doing about sea level rise rather than reposting the fund raising strategy of a thoughtless think tank?

    Monday, Aug 5 @ 11:53 am