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Abstract

Despite the scientific consensus, some political leaders in the United States deny the need for policy making in response to sea level rise. Even in coastal Florida and Virginia, where communities face acute risks of flooding and economic damage, the problem has been denied. Land use development and real estate professionals, when discussing the subject, have a responsibility to do better than our political leaders. In fact, the ethical codes of the professions – law, architecture, engineering, planning, real estate, and corporate compliance – all demand honesty. Material facts must be disclosed, and professionals cannot conceal truth, particularly if it leads to fraud or misconduct. Elsewhere on Earth, ethical considerations have influenced sea level rise policy. In the Netherlands, where major cities exist below sea level, political leaders confront the risks of a tragic flood. Dutch engineers have planned and designed projects and revised safety standards related to river widening, flood management, and salt-water intrusion and freshwater supplies. The low-lying Republic of the Marshall Islands also fears the loss of lands and lifestyles. But lacking the economic resources to protect themselves, the nation submitted a resolution to the United Nations decrying the threats created by the rising seas upon human rights to life, property, culture, food,housing, health and water. While public sector representatives wrestle with decisions to adapt to, mitigate for, or retreat from sea level rise, the private sector has a role to play. Corporations, by law, have rights and privileges; with them must come corporate social responsibility. Mere compliance with law is insufficient when a company’s real estate endeavors fail to protect human rights. Ethical behavior by the real estate professions and corporations means informing the people, partnering with the public sector leaders, protecting the public interest, and ensuring a resilient community with a sustainable future.

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