By Lise Alves
MIAMI BEACH, MIAMI, FLORIDA – Although scientists and environmentalists say that the rising of sea level will be more widely seen in the Eastern coast of the United States, causing more mayhem and damage on the Atlantic Ocean side of the country, the state of California is also expected to be burdened by the worldwide phenomenon.
According to a report released by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in early March, Californian ports will need to spend between $9 – $12 billion dollars on storm surge upgrades to defend themselves against the substantial sea level rise expected by 2100.
The USGS report not only notes the collateral damage risk to the supply chain and infrastructure. “Beyond the potential physical impacts to the port terminal (that could impact the US’s ability to accept imports), coastal flooding and erosion will impact rail lines and roads exiting the ports, disrupting the movement of goods… throughout the United States,” stated the USGS report.
Forecasts from the California Ocean Protection Council in 2018 show that by 2100 sea level rise is expected to reach approximately three feet (one meter) along all major urban centers in Central and Southern California as well as San Francisco and Palo Alto.
According to the entity, this could mean flooding of many low-lying urban centers and permanently inundating many of the state’s remaining coastal wetlands.
The government of California released at the beginning of 2019 The Fourth Climate Assessment Report showing that the economic costs associated with direct climate impacts by 2050 include human mortality, damages to coastal properties, and the potential for droughts and mega-floods.
“The costs are in the order of tens of billions of dollars,” stated the report. According to state officials, statewide damages could reach nearly $17.9 billion from inundation of residential and commercial buildings with the level of the sea rising less than a 50 centimeters.
The assessment shows that ‘under mid to high sea-level rise scenarios, 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches may completely erode by 2100 without large-scale human interventions’.
To try to mitigate the effects of overall climate change and particularly of sea level rising, city officials and residents across the state are starting to discuss and plan for the future.
In November 2018, residents of San Francisco approved overwhelmingly to put forth up to $425 million in city revenues in a project to rebuild the city’s 3.5-mile seawall that runs from Fisherman’s Wharf to Mission Creek.
The area, one of the city’s most famous tourist attractions already faces flooding and the existing seawall has progressively deteriorated.
There are some studies that show the Bay Area could see its seas rise anywhere from six to ten feet by 2100, which could flood not only the waterfront but advance inwards towards the center of the city.
Thirty-three miles to the South, in the city of Palo Alto, officials agreed on last week to move ahead with plans protect coastal area from sea level rise. The measures, in the Sea Level Rise Implementation Plan, could have significant implications on properties around the Palo Alto Baylands, including restrictions on new building structures.
Environmentalists say the discussions and actions started by local and state authorities are steps in the right direction, but fear that the state of California may endure a more threatening effect to climate change than previously forecast.
“The scale of potential impacts by the end of the century is comparable to some of the largest natural disasters in history,” Patrick Barnard, USGS geologist was quoted as saying in scientific magazine Science American.