Building a Wall: Irish Golf Resort Under Siege by Rising Atlantic Ocean

Located on the coast of Doonbeg, Ireland, the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel is threatened by the effects of rising sea levels due to climate change.

Located on the coast of Doonbeg, Ireland, the Trump International Golf Links & Hotel is threatened by the effects of rising sea levels due to climate change. The 18-hole golf course was originally purchased by Donald Trump in 2014 via a distressed sale, re-opening on May 14th, 2016 after significant renovations (i).

To counteract the threat of rising tides overflowing into the golf course, the resort has filed plans to construct a 1.7 mile wall through Doughmore Beach(ii). The project would require 200,000 tons of boulders and rise 15 feet high, creating a barrier between the resort and the Atlantic Ocean(iii). While the wall presents an opportunity to preserve the integrity of the course, groups such as the Irish Surfing Association, West Coast Surf Club, Friends of the Irish and Environment, and Save Doughmore Beach are protesting its construction due to the potential damage it could do to the Doughmore ecosystem in addition to restricted local access to the beach (iv).

Besides protests by environmentalists, Trump International Golf Links saw resistance from local planning regulators and the Irish government, which rejected the proposal for permit in September 2016 (iv). However, the project does have some support from local residents who fear that potential flooding would eventually harm surrounding houses in the area unless a barrier is created.

According to NASA, global sea levels have risen 85mm since 1993 alone, and are rising at a rate of 3.4mm per year (v). This does not bode well for Doonbeg, which sits 16 ft above water along the coastline (vi). It is thus a concern for the resort to explore options that would mitigate the inevitable flooding of the golf course, however it is important to consider various options before taking any kind of action because it could have lasting effects.


One alternative to building an outright wall is to create a natural levy that prevents the water from encroaching onto the golf course. This would in effect create a barrier made of sand and mud which increases the elevation of the land located just beyond the beach. While not as much of an obstruction as creating a wall of rocks, natural levies still create an eyesore and eventually wear out over time by the weather.

Another alternative is to keep the beach as is and convert it into a conservation in the decades to come as the water level rises. The beach and surrounding sand dunes hold a unique ecosystem which benefits the surrounding environment. Preserving this land and selling it back to the government or private provider of capital allows for the course to be relocated to higher ground. Given the current rate at which the sea level is rising, it is doubtful that there would be an immediate threat to the golf course going underwater in the coming decades. The underlying motivation seems to be more of a reactive one that relies on short term solution to a longer term problem.

It is important to always consider the consequences of man-made changes to natural habitats such as the beach coastline. Creating a 1.7 mile stretch of stones is a temporary fix to a problem that will ultimately overcome the solution in the long run. Not to mention the significant aesthetic and environmental changes that will result as well. While the decision has yet to be finalized on whether the wall will be constructed next to the resort, the key takeaway is that every man-made decision has a clear consequence, and that we as humans must work together to make the world a great place to live for the decades and centuries to come.

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(ii), (iii)






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Student comments on Building a Wall: Irish Golf Resort Under Siege by Rising Atlantic Ocean

  1. Although I enjoy golf and would very much like to have the opportunity to play a round at Trump International Golf Links and Hotel in Doonbeg, the solution of building a wall does not even remotely begin to address the root causes of climate change. I agree that the wall is simply a temporary solution and local planning regulators and the Irish government should continue to deny the permits for the construction of the wall. If the golf course truly wants to save the course and resort, the owners should address the causes of rising sea levels, rather than finding temporary solutions to the problem. I find it ironic that the golf course wants to construct a wall, the process of which will undoubtedly contribute to global warming and harming of ecosystems, to “solve” the problem. Instead, the organization should look to partner with the local residents who are concerned about their houses and other businesses to reduce emissions and maintain that reduction. It is going to take much more than that to reduce the effects of rising sea levels, but it starts with groups of people like this and people around the world must do their part.

  2. I agree with Mike (and J2G18) that the proposal put forth by Trump Int. Golf Links and Hotel is simply a band-aid that does not actually address any of the causes of climate change, nor does it provide a template that could be used in other areas that are impacted by rising sea levels. We cannot simply build a sea wall around every part of the world that is susceptible to rising sea levels. While Trump Int. Golf Links and Hotel may have the resources to create a 1.7 mile long wall made out of 200,000 tons of boulders, this is not a model that can be replicated by other communities (particularly poorer communities) to mitigate the impact of climate change.

    I’m curious if low-laying land in Ireland (and elsewhere) can adopt strategies used in the Netherlands to maintain land that is below sea-level. While creating a system of dykes and channels similar to the Netherlands would be significantly more capital intensive, it also has a higher likelihood of being a more sustainable solution moving forward. Building a sea wall is unsustainable as it would need to be regularly replenished in order to remain effective.

    While seemingly untenable to Trump Int. Golf Links and Hotel, the ultimate solution may be to simply abandon the golf course and hotel completely.

  3. J2G18, thanks for this post—it raises a number of key issues. One thing that stands out to me is how broadly climate change is now impacting the value of businesses. With a wide range of side effects including rising sea levels, changing and extreme weather patterns, decreasing food production, destabilizing political environments and increasing human health risks, climate change is altering the intrinsic value of businesses around the globe (both positively and negatively). It is thus more critical than ever to have a well-informed view of (i) the scope and trajectory of these impacts under the status-quo environment and (ii) the likelihood and efficacy of a coordinated global effort to counter the effects of global warming by curbing greenhouse gas emissions. I wonder, for instance, if Donald Trump had fully considered these issues (in particular rising sea levels) when he purchased the assets in 2014 or if the substantial costs of the proposed mitigation strategies are coming as an unpleasant surprise.

  4. I really enjoyed this article, JG – as MicMacMan (Tom) mentioned, it’s a perfect illustration of how climate change and rising sea levels are directly causing real value destruction in the present day. This isn’t just some theoretical problem. The case of the Doonberg resort is laden with irony for a couple reasons: first, “build a wall” appears to be a recurring theme in the world of Trump, and second, the Trump Organization’s application for a construction permit cited “global warming and its effects” as driving the need to build a seawall. Yet at the same time, Trump has claimed that global warming is a scheme created by the Chinese “to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” If he’s elected into office, Trump could very well be expected to block the pursuit of a large-scale antidote to climate change, even as he applies a variety of “band-aids” (Alec’s term) in a pragmatic effort to protect his own business interests. Sad!


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