Coastal Commission launches web tool for sea level rise assistance

Climate change aid coincides with a study predicting significant coastal flooding by 2035.

STATEWIDE — Warnings of rising seas and changing climates are sometimes discounted as an attempt by researchers to maintain revenue streams, the result of “cooked” data or an overhyped threat of doomsday (which humanity will never, ever witness).

Certainly there will be some who question the veracity of a recently published report stating certain major coastal communities in the United States could be subject to significant coastal flooding by 2035.

Nonetheless the California Coastal Commission hopes its educational efforts to inform the public – regardless of the level of their skepticism or acceptance – of the potential effects of sea level rise will go a long way in arming communities with resources and tools to combat all that could possibly go wrong before the end of the century.

The commission announced at its July meetings such resources and tools were recently published on its website. Policymakers and members of the public will be able to view various sea level rise data and statistics, comparison photos and information of what resources are at risk.

The updated webpage – – specifically aims to provide the public with information on potential impacts of sea level rise, while also providing policy makers with tools to better address any possible fallout of climate change.

“The purpose of the project is to enhance decision-making about long-term planning and management of critical coastal resources in light of climate change and sea level rise,” Coastal Commission staff stated in a report to commissioners. “The project seeks to do this by providing the Coastal Commission, staff and others with informational products to better understand sea level rise vulnerability throughout the state, and to provide additional guidance and resources on how to address sea level rise vulnerability in the commission’s planning and regulatory work.”

Coastal Commission staff stated the web tool provides an interactive map of what could happen within the next few years if certain steps aren’t taken to plan for sea level rise.

For example there is a section on the Coastal Commission’s sea level rise webpage on vulnerability and adaption. The section provides a statewide report on what state resources are most at-risk to sea level rise. There is also a link to strategies communities and governments can take in addressing sea level rise and other climate change issues.

Addressing future sea level rise would ultimately require a combination of strategies, with solutions crafted to fit specific communities or situations instead of following a one-size-fits-all plan.

“Choosing to ‘do nothing’ or following a policy of ‘non-intervention’ may be considered an adaptive response, but in most cases, the strategies for addressing sea level rise hazards will require proactive planning to ensure protection of coastal resources and development,” Coastal Commission staff stated on its sea level rise webpage.

The commission regularly addresses sea level rise along California’s coastal counties. There are 15 counties on California’s coast, including San Diego, Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara; the 10 other coastal counties are San Luis Obispo, Monterey, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, San Francisco, Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt and Del Norte.

Four of California’s largest cities – San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Francisco, also border the Pacific Ocean.

The Coastal Commission’s web tool launch coincided with a July 2017 study published by researchers at Dartmouth College and the University of Vermont, projecting real impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding inundation could be realized as early as 2035 if mitigation steps aren’t taken today.

Researchers cited evidence to show coastal flooding was occurring at a rate of once every three months in 2012 – compared once every five years in the 1950s.

“As sea level rises, more coastal communities will begin to see increasingly frequent tidal flooding that is both expansive enough to preclude normal daily life in certain areas (hindering work and school transportation, impeding commerce, damaging property, etc.) and frequent enough to make adjusting to this disruption costly—in some cases prohibitively so—or untenable,” the Dartmouth/University of Vermont study stated.

Some communities could be inundated with frequent coastal flooding and overall effects of sea level rise by 2035.

“[More than] half of the effectively inundated communities we project for the year 2035 are home to socioeconomically vulnerable populations, which suggests that resources for building climate resilience will need to account for the fact that many communities face not only physical exposure to climate hazards, but also socioeconomic challenges to building resilience,” the July 2017 report stated.

Researchers added international adherence to the Paris Agreement could help several communities in the United States avoid negative impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding.

The Dartmouth/University of Vermont study was funded by grants to the Union of Concerned Scientists and its Climate and Energy program.

Parimal M. Rohit photo

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