Akerlof, K., Covi, M., & Rohring, E. (2017). Communicating sea level rise: Media, public opinion, and engagement. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science. Oxford University Press.


Three quarters of the world’s large cities are located on coasts. As climate change causesoceans to warm and expand, and triggers vast influxes of water from melting ice sheetsand glaciers, by the end of the 21st century, as many as 650 million people globally maybe below sea levels or subject to recurrent flooding. Human beings have always facedthreats from coastal storms and flooding, but never have so many of us and so much ofour societal infrastructure been in harm’s way. With entire nations facing forcedemigration, international online media are framing sea-level rise as a human rightsconcern. Yet sea-level rise suffers from generally low media attention and salience as apublic issue. Coastal communities tasked with developing adaptation strategies areapproaching engagement through new forms of risk visualization and models ofenvironmental decision making. As a subfield of climate communication that addresses avariety of other anthropogenic and natural phenomena, sea-level rise communication alsocalls upon the less politicized field of natural hazards risk communication. This reviewexplores media analyses, audience research, and evaluation of communication outreachand engagement, finding many remaining gaps in our understanding of sea-level risecommunication.