A Very Clear Blue Line: Behavioral Economics, Public Choice, Public Art and Sea Level Rise

30 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2008


As much as science and policy have to tell us about coastal policy in an era of climate change, literature and visual art also play a role. Images of the mythical Flood pervade our culture's considerations of climate change, even though projected sea level rise is gradual and not in absolute terms a large amount. Sea level rise is expected to have many adverse consequences. The essay focuses on coastal development. The problems here are familiar. Unwise land use choices repeat themselves despite a series of disasters from which we appear to learn nothing. Mechanisms of risk perception, moral hazard behavior, concealment of risk for personal gain, and manipulation of governmental process to subsidize risky locational decisions all play a role. Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council is faulted for undermining South Carolina's effort to prevent unwise land use by banning development in risky coastal locations.

Looking to the future, the essay asks whether better risk communication could play a role. It identifies blue line projects, in which artists and activists inscribe a line directly on the ground, either at the level of the current predicted storm surge, or the predicted sea level if the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets were to melt. Blue line projects are place-based public art. They insert themselves into the daily life of specific communities in a way that is qualitatively different from most current discourse about climate change and sea level rise. The essay examines the legal and political feasibility of blue line projects, as well as their underlying function, inasmuch as people use vision to understand their relationship to land. Private property owners and municipalities committed to addressing global warming should incorporate blue line projects into their strategy for changing norms and behavior in light of climate change.

Keywords: climate change, sea level rise, coastal development, property, public art, regulatory takings, environment, risk communication, risk perception, public choice, behavioral economics, conservation easement, social norms

Suggested Citation

Poirier, Marc R., A Very Clear Blue Line: Behavioral Economics, Public Choice, Public Art and Sea Level Rise. Southeastern Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 16, 2007-2008, Seton Hall Public Law Research Paper No. 1118327, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1118327

Marc R. Poirier (Contact Author)

Seton Hall Law School ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102-5210
United States
973-642-8478 (Phone)
973-642-8546 (Fax)

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