Rising sea levels threaten California beaches
Sunset at Venice Beach
As we say goodbye to sweet, summer days and the beautiful beaches we enjoyed this year, we can look forward with some assurance to more summers on the beaches—but not too many more.
The problem is, we may not even have beaches to go to by the end of the century.
A recent study by experts from San Francisco State University showed that beach communities in California are at risk of being submerged due to rising sea levels. The areas include Carpinteria, Malibu, Venice, Torrey Pines State Reserve near San Diego, and Ocean Beach in San Francisco.
Researchers predict a sea level rise of one to two meters by the year 2100, which would mean huge economic losses of $600 million to $1 billion or more for the five areas combined. These are just the projected losses by the end of the century.
Flooding and erosion would wipe out many properties along the coastline, infrastructure, wildlife habitat and open space. It will also hit the tourism industry hard, since not many people want to hang out on eroding beaches. According to the study, Venice Beach alone could lose up to $440 million in tourist and other revenue by 2100.
California is quite well-known for its beach culture. Whether it’s the Beach Boys, “Baywatch”, or Katy Perry’s hit song "California Gurls," the Golden State is very much associated with surfer dudes and sunny beach life. Economic loss is certainly an important issue, but losing our beaches also means losing a valuable recreation space and a part of Californian culture.
Fortunately, Californians can take comfort in knowing that some actions can prevent the fatal future of our beaches. Though costly, flood risk can be minimized by investing approximately $14 billion in flood and erosion prevention measures like building or upgrading sea walls, levees and offshore breakwaters.
People living along the coastline might have to retreat further inland, and an increasing volume of sand would have to be replenished as erosion shrinks the beaches. It is up to the policymakers to consider the potential problems of rising sea levels and take action to protect an economically, socially and environmentally important resource.
Your generation and your children’s likely will enjoy more summers on the beaches. But if we want future generations to be able to do the same, it is up to us to protect our beautiful coastlines.