Ocean might swallow California sooner than you think

A slow-moving emergency is lapping at California’s shores— climate-driven sea-level rise that experts now predict could elevate the water in coastal areas up to 10 feet in just 70 years, gobbling up beachfront and overwhelming low-lying cities.

The speed with which polar ice is melting and glacier shelves are cracking off indicates to some scientists that once-unthinkable outer-range projections of sea rise may turn out to be too conservative. A knee-buckling new state-commissioned report warns that if nothing changes, California’s coastal waters will rise at a rate 30 to 40 times faster than in the last century.

The potential result: crippled economies, compromised public safety, submerged infrastructure, and a forced retreat from our iconic Pacific coast.

No state has done more than California to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change and sea-level rise. But experts say that even if carbon reductions continue, residual warming of the ocean will continue unchecked, breeding surges that will  re-shape the state’s coast and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Last month the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that without intervention, as much as 67 percent of Southern California’s beaches could be lost to rising seas by the end of the century.

Check sea level rise in your neighborhood. Interactive courtesy of Climate Central

A consensus of scientific research makes catastrophic projections that, in the worst case, will be reality by the end of this century:

• Malibu’s Broad Beach will dwindle into a seldom-seen slice of sand, its name an oxymoron.
• Power plants and nuclear waste sites, such as San Onofre, need to be fortified.
• Roads, bridges and railways along the coast from Mendocino to San Diego will be abandoned and relocated inland.
• San Francisco’s Embarcadero and low-lying cities, such as Huntington Beach and Santa Monica, will flood more frequently and more severely.
• More than 42,000 homes in California will be under water—not merely flooded, but with seawater over roofs.

The grim outlook is mirrored in the latest report, which was presented April 26 by the state’s Ocean Protection Council. Its sea-level rise projections will assist state agencies and local governments with planning.

No stretch of the state’s 3,400 miles of coast, bays, inlets and islands will be spared. Addressing sea-level rise will cost a staggering amount of public and private money, and will particularly impact the poor and vulnerable. The problem becomes more urgent with much of California’s wealth huddled along the coast, supporting an ocean-dependent $44 billion economy.

In the end, state and local officials may come to the gut-wrenching conclusion that some coastal land should be simply abandoned.

“We’re not doing well at all,” said Democratic Assemblyman Mark Stone, chairman of the Select Committee on Coastal Protection and Access to Natural Resources. “We have yet to really start to answer the hard questions and make policy—saying, ‘No, we are not going to put public money here.’ Eventually we should get to the point that we are not going to do any public investment in those places any more.”

Most scientists tread lightly in the policy realm, providing information for others to craft into regulations. Not Bill Patzert, who for years has sounded the alarm about rising oceans.

“It’s not an existential threat. It’s real. It’s gonna happen,” said Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Here’s the bigger issue: If you’re in the tunnel and you see the train coming at you, what do you do? Do you race towards it or do you back out? It’s just common sense. As a society, why aren’t we doing that?”

Read the entire article at OCRegister.com