Shoreline communities include those next to oceans, major estuaries and the Great Lakes. As the planet warms, these cities, towns and villages face a double threat of rising sea levels and more severe storms. The oceans are expected to rise up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) by 2100 due to thermal expansion (water expands as it warms) and glacier melt, according to the most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international body charged with assessing the future impact of climate change.
Global warming could also result in more extreme coastal storms, such as Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac, which caused severe damage last year, though the number of storms may not change, according to the IPCC and climate scientists.
The population pressures may affect coastal areas, Holly Bamford, assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service, said in a statement.
"As more people move to the coast, county managers will see a dual challenge: protecting a growing population from coastal hazards, as well as protecting coastal ecosystems from a growing population," Bamford said.