SEA LEVEL RISE WORKSHOP - Thurs April 9, 2009
The California Coastal Commission met in Oxnard this week. Thursday morning saw a presentation and discussion of recently issued draft reports that address the impacts of climate change and sea level rise on coastal flooding, erosion, and beach recreation. The workshop included California Coastal Erosion Response to Sea Level Rise—Analysis and Mapping by Philip Williams & Associates, LTD., The Impacts of Sea Level Rise on the California Coast by the Pacific Institute.
It was clear that this issue's profile is increasing, but some of the Commissioner's comments suggested a desire to maintain business-as-usual until even more studies are done.
I was among a handful of public comments urging the Commission to consider sea level rise in current and future policy. With a 2 minute time limit, I skipped my planned policy suggestions and said something like this:
The Surfrider Foundation is dedicated to protecting and preserving the world's oceans waves and beaches. The California coast has a legacy of decades of coastal development, all planned based on the assumption of a fairly static sea level. As the presentations today have illustrated, there is a rapidly increasing risk of sea level rise. But remember that this work was done with the most conservative estimates, using a 1.4m rise. Recent science suggests this may happen much faster and much higher than previously predicted. The economic impacts of catastrophic sea level rise are hard to imagine - consider the 'toxic assets' of coastal real estate, when suddenly ocean front property becomes a liability!
People everywhere, even kids, are trying to organize and figure out how to respond to this crisis. There is a 14 year old from Ventura, Alec Loorz, who started a group called 'Kids vs Global Warming.' He did a project called SLAPP, Sea Level Awareness Project, in which kids installed a series of poles along the water front. Each pole shows the water level around 17 feet above today, which is about where we'll be if Greenland melts. The poles also have symbols of things that will be impacted; the power plant, sewage treatment plant, highway, and more...
The studies presented today suggest that billions of dollars will be needed to protect or relocate infrastructure, maintain or construct seawalls, and other measures to deal with coastal erosion. The big question is who is going to pay for it?
Our city can't even afford to do the maintenance and restoration that our beaches need today. And it should not be the taxpayer's burden to protect private property in the future inundation zones.
The late author, Kurt Vonnegut, often spoke of when "the excrement hits the air-conditioner."
I am afraid that time is quickly approaching...
It is critical that the Coastal Commission consider sea level rise with every decision that is made.