Urban Ocean Lab

The Challenge: Climate change is causing sea level to rise, putting our safety, economies, food security, and communities at risk. Globally, due to burning fossil fuels, average sea level has risen 11 to 16 centimeters since 1900. Even with immediate and dramatic reductions in carbon emissions, sea level is projected to rise up to two meters by 2100. Approximately 32% of Americans live in coastal cities and we are unprepared for oncoming rising seas and storms. Over time, rising seas, storm surges, and floods will lead to considerable loss of life and billions of dollars of damage, which will disproportionately impact historically-disadvantaged communities.

What can be done: While coastal cities have implemented a variety of resilience and adaptation strategies, no overarching framework or entity exists for 1) identifying best practices, 2) assessing and monitoring the efficacy of policies implemented, and 3) screening decisions to ensure they are grounded in climate justice. The development of rigorous, creative, equitable, and practical policy proposals could provide a massive benefit for lives and livelihoods, for economies and ecosystems, and for climate justice.

How Urban Ocean Lab is meeting the challenge: As a policy think tank, Urban Ocean Lab seeks to change the rules of the game, designing a “Blue New Deal” policy framework—an ocean climate action plan—for coastal cities. Urban Ocean Lab will compile, evaluate, and develop policies and practices that enable coastal cities to adapt to a climate-changed future while attending to the needs of communities at the greatest risk. Additionally, they will develop recommendations for city-level actions to include the ocean more fully in climate policy. Model policies and best practices for restoring coastal ecosystems, managing sea level rise, scaling offshore renewable energy, building resilient infrastructure, and educating communities about coastal resilience will be gathered and refined from case studies of coastal cities around the world. Urban Ocean Lab will work with committed city governments, scientists, policy makers, designers, and community organizations to develop a community of practice for coastal cities in the U.S. working toward climate justice for all residents. Urban Ocean Lab’s highly collaborative process will result in a community of leaders who embrace and implement these approaches to advance climate-ready coastal cities.


This project aligns with the following Sustainable Development Goals

  • Reduced inequalities
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Climate action
About the Sustainable Development Goals
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