“What we’re building and not building, and where we’re zoning and planning now is really going to forecast how devastating sea-level rise is to our state… Right now we’re deciding which beaches to save and which ones to allow to disappear…”– Mandy Sackett, Surfrider Foundation, “In California, Rising Seas Pose a Bigger Economic Threat Than Wildfires, Quakes,” Scientific American
If we lose our beaches, we lose everything that goes along with them: wiggling our toes in the warm sand, riding waves at our favorite breaks, the diverse ecosystems hosting countless ocean and coastal creatures, the key driver of our state’s economy – indeed, California’s very identity. That’s why Surfrider Foundation prioritizes coastal preservation as core to our mission.
In California, most of this work takes place each month at the California Coastal Commission meetings where our efforts are focused on establishing appropriate setbacks for development, opposing shoreline structures, and advocating for long-term adaptation solutions to our rising seas. Our constant attention to, and presence at, Coastal Commission hearings has made Surfrider staff go-to sources regarding what sea level rise means for California.
Emerging research continues to add to the urgency and importance of sea level rise planning: If we don’t act now, the costs of sea level rise and climate change adaptation will increase exponentially. A majority of California’s beaches are at risk of disappearing from sea level rise and this will come at a great cost.
- The U.S. Geological Survey recently found that 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches may completely vanish by 2100 due to sea level rise and cliffs could recede more than 130 feet by the year 2100.
- Several recent studies have shown that impacts from flooding – from water in the basement to inundated streets impact property values. For example, flooding has already hamstrung property prices and cost Hampton Roads homeowners hundreds of millions of dollars in lost or unrealized values.
- The costs of sea level rise and climate change adaptation will increase exponentially over time. The National Institute of Building Sciences found that mitigation funding can save the nation $6 in future disaster costs, for every $1 spent on hazard mitigation.
- A recent study published in the Nature journal found that the combination of sea level rise and storms in California has the potential to displace more than half a million people and cost $150 billion by the end of the century – 6% of the state’s GDP.
“I feel like a broken record saying this, but there is still such a disconnect with the public on such a key, simple message: Sea level rise doesn’t just impact homeowners; it impacts every person who wants to go to the beach.”– Jennifer Savage, Surfrider Foundation, “The California coast is disappearing. Our choices are grim,” L.A. Times
The biggest threat to saving our beaches is coastal armoring (i.e., seawalls, revetments, rip rap). California currently has 142 miles of coastal armoring: over 30 percent of the Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego County coastlines are already armored. Without strong guidance and without strong local planning policies, these numbers will increase exponentially and our coast will disappear – rendering useless all other attempts to maintain or improve coastal access for all Californians.
Coastal landowners and planners will inevitably attempt to act to protect their assets from these losses, but protection should not come at the expense of public resources. We must ensure that the incredible value of our beaches, recreational opportunities and vital coastal habitats persist for generations to come.
To this end, Surfrider Foundation and our partners highlight important projects that come before the Commission and evaluate how committed our Commissioners are when it comes to saving California’s coast on ActCoastal, as well as post hearing presentations on ActCoastal’s YouTube channel .
Sea level rise in the news:
- Climate Change Will Alter California’s Coast. Here’s How The State Plans To Manage It – LAist
- CEO named for new Flood and Sea Level Rise Resiliency District – Climate WC
- Ocean protection plan charts course for defending California coast – Herald Mail
- Half of world’s sandy beaches at risk from climate change – The Mainichi
- Rising seas threaten Bay Area economy, infrastructure, environment, says most detailed study yet – SF Chronicle
- San Diego Calculated How Fast the Sea Will Rise, But Not the Cost – Voice of San Diego
- Meanwhile On The Climate Beat: Greenland Lost 600 Billion Tons of Ice Last Year – Weather.com
- Op-Ed: California’s beaches closures offer a glimpse of the likely future. That should frighten us – LA Times
- ‘It’s managed retreat.’ Calif. pushes homes back from ocean – EE News
- The fight to save Broad Beach – LA Curbed
- Back off the beach and the rising sea? No way, California cities say – CalMatters
- Fighting sea level rise together – San Mateo Daily Journal
- King tides are coming, and you can help study them – VC Star
- A King’s Ransom: King Tides Offer Perspective on Impacts of Sea Level Rise – Dana Point Times
- King Tide Project: Volunteer Photographers Help Localities Prepare for Sea Level Rise – Efficient Government
- Rising seas threaten to drown US airports by 2100 – Trust
- Decades-long project to fortify San Clemente shoreline gets $505000 funding boost – OC Register
- California analysts urge lawmakers: reject Gov. Newsom’s $1 billion climate loan proposal – CalMatters
- Crystal Cove Receives $2M to Help Restore Historic Cottages – Laguna Beach Independent
- County supervisor candidates speak about declaring climate emergency in Humboldt – KRCR
- California must act to protect its beaches from sea level rise – SF Chronicle
- Most California cities refuse to retreat from rising seas. One town wants to show how it’s done – LA Times
- Bolinas wall stalled by coastal commission – Point Reyes Light
- San Clemente Finalizes Sea Level Rise Report in hopes of establishing a Coastal Program – Voice of OC
- New NASA Mission Plans To Map Sea Level Rise From Space Through 2030 – Cap Radio
- California considers climate bond to prepare for disasters – Press-Democrat
- King tides threaten roads and cover beaches in preview of sea level rise – OC Register
- Why Calif. will let rising seas ‘knock out’ this building – EE News
- California officials need to move faster on sea level rise, legislative study finds – LA Times
- Lawmakers: Prep for California Sea Level Rise or Suffer Later – Gov Tech
- Assembly Select Committee on Sea Level Rise Holds First Meeting in Five Years – California Globe
- Editorial: California’s rising sea level demands aggressive response from state – San Diego Tribune
- Sea Level Rise Legislative Report – LA Times
- Without urgent action, California’s sea-level rise a threat to housing, economy, report says– CalMatters
- California conference sounds alarm about sea level rise, storms – Freight Waves
- This 7000-year-old wall was the earliest known defense against rising seas. It failed – Science Magazine
- California is feuding with this SoCal city over ‘planned retreat’ from sea level rise – Los Angeles Times, Oct. 26, 2019
- How 1 small seaside town is grappling with its beach being swept away by erosion – Orange County Register, Oct. 24, 2019
- Sea-level rise threatens Orange County’s coast from top to bottom – Orange County Register, Sept. 13, 2019
- Rising Sea Levels Leave Coastal Cities With Hard Choices – Capital & Main, Aug. 12, 2019
- With More Storms and Rising Seas, Which U.S. Cities Should Be Saved First? – New York Times, June 19, 2019
- Destruction from sea level rise in California could exceed worst wildfires and earthquakes – L.A. Times, March 13, 2019