Sea level rise (SLR) will increase adaptation needs along low-lying coasts worldwide. Despite centuries of experience with coastal risk, knowledge about the effectiveness and feasibility of societal adaptation on the scale required in a warmer world remains limited. This paper contrasts end-century SLR risks under two warming and two adaptation scenarios, for four coastal settlement archetypes (Urban Atoll Islands, Arctic Communities, Large Tropical Agricultural Deltas, Resource-Rich Cities). We show that adaptation will be substantially beneficial to the continued habitability of most low-lying settlements over this century, at least until the RCP8.5 median SLR level is reached. However, diverse locations worldwide will experience adaptation limits over the course of this century, indicating situations where even ambitious adaptation cannot sufficiently offset a failure to effectively mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions.
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