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California Passes Legislation to Combat Coastal Climate Change Risks

Ben Chou

Posted October 3, 2012

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When you think of California, the first things that come to mind probably have to do with sunshine, the ocean, or beaches.  As you can imagine, the California coastline is an integral component of the identity and economic well-being of the state.  Eighty percent of the state’s total population, over 30 million people, lives within 30 miles of the coast, and the coastal economy contributes $46 billion to the state.         

  • View of Stinson Beach, just north of San Francisco (Photo credit: flickr user john weiss)

Yet, climate change and sea level rise pose severe risks to people, public and private property, infrastructure, beaches, and other precious coastal resources in California.  A 2009 analysis by researchers at the Pacific Institute found that nearly $100 billion worth of property statewide is at risk from a 100-year coastal flood event following a sea level rise of 4.6 feet.  This level of sea level rise is in line with projections (1.4 to 5.5 feet) for 2100 according to recent findings from the National Academy of Sciences.  In addition, due to sea level rise and changes in coastal storms, the current 100-year storm could occur once a year by 2050.

In a blog post a few months ago, I wrote about a bill making its way through the California State Legislature.  SB 1066 authorizes the State Coastal Conservancy to fund and implement projects to address climate change impacts, including sea level rise, storm surge, flooding, and other coastal hazards.  The bill was passed by the legislature in August and late last week, Governor Brown signed the bill into law.  It will go into effect in January 2013.      

This legislation establishes clear authority for the Coastal Conservancy to address climate change through projects and grants to public agencies and non-profits.  Among other things, it will help to maintain public access to the coast; protect and restore wetlands; build coastal resilience to climate impacts; and protect infrastructure, including ports, highways, and hiking and biking trails.  It also will give the conservancy authority to work with local agencies and private entities to address coastal climate risks.

As I and others have written about previously, California, in many respects, is outpacing states across the U.S. when it comes to preparing for climate impacts.  The state has developed a comprehensive climate adaptation strategy (and is working on an update), and state agencies are integrating potential climate change impacts into agency operations and planning and are developing tools and resources to assist local communities. 

The passage and signing of SB 1066 into law is just one more example of how California is working to manage climate change risks, and it serves as another example of what other coastal states should be doing to prepare for rising seas and a changing climate.                

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SteveOct 3 2012 01:44 PM

So, will the large population living on the coast of North Carolina move to CA once their homes are destroyed due to their State government outlawing planning for sea level rise?

I would move out of tornado alley if my town outlawed underground shelters.


Joe NapoliOct 3 2012 06:56 PM

When i think of California, the first things that come to mind are unemployment, high taxes, bad schools , bad for business , nice weather.
people who can afford to live at the beach can afford to rebuilt their homes, why should the rest of people living inland pay in high tax for their pleasure.

Gordon ChamberlainOct 3 2012 08:28 PM

Are the capable of ecocide?
Where does the leadership of NRDC stand on the proposal to have large scale long term damage or destruction of our environment recognized as ecocide and subject to criminal prosecution.
Was the BP toxic disaster ecocide?
Was the plundering of the Cod in Eastern Canada ecocide?
Was the intention to run a pipeline over the Ogallala Aquifer by the Trans Canada Pipeline ecocidal?
Was sabotaging of the electric vehicle ecocide?
Are the following acts ecocide?
• Climate destabilisation causing arctic and global ecosystem damage and collapse ;
• Ocean acidification and ecosystem destruction ;
• 400 dead zones in our oceans, due to fertilizer and chemicals;
• BP toxic oil disaster, that was not a spill ;
• Destruction of the Amazon and Congo ecosystems;
• Destruction of the Aral Sea in Southern Russia ;
• Destruction of Boreal forest ecosystems due to strip mining in the tar sands plus the creation of toxic lakes, massive species impact;
• Plundering of forest resources (Indonesia, Madagascar +) ;
• Plundering of fish resources(Cod, Blue fin tuna, sharks, whales);
• Enbridge Gateway oil tanker disaster /date to be determined;
• The proposed mega quarry North of Toronto.(food, water security)
This campaign is lead by Polly Higgins a UK environmental lawyer and author of Eradicating Ecocide Laws and Governance to prevent the destruction of the earth and The Earth is our Business. To find out more and assist with ecocide campaign visit
Share it on you networks Write your political representatives, demanding that they recognize and make ecocide a crime, because the destruction of the web of life that we depend on to survive is threatening our future.
Gordon Chamberlain
Eradicating Ecocide Canada

Ben ChouOct 4 2012 10:23 AM

Hi Joe--it's a common misconception that sea level rise only affects those in beach houses on the coast, but the 2009 study by the Pacific Institute found that a majority of the population vulnerable to sea level rise in California is located in the densely-populated San Francisco Bay area.

Further, over 22% of those vulnerable to sea level rise statewide are households earning less than $30,000 annually. In 13 of the state's 20 coastal counties, there are disproportionate impacts on low-income households. Oftentimes these households lack the means to purchase emergency preparedness materials, can't afford insurance policies, and don't have access to transportation to evacuate during disasters.

Dan EdrichDec 6 2013 06:25 PM

Here on the coast of Humboldt County, eradication of beach grass has been so careless that our fore dune blewout, wetlands drained and hind dunes are slip-faced. Wildlife has disappeared and erosion is out of control. This work was done with California Department of Parks and Recreation (WH)
Wetland Habitat funds!
Someone should go to jail.

Comments are closed for this post.


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