Rising Seas to Wash Away Iconic California Beaches, Tourism

ocean beach photo

Photo by stevendamron via Flickr CC

By the end of this century, rising sea levels may drown some of the most iconic beaches of this fun-in-the-sun state. California's famous beaches that are under threat, along with the tourism dollars they haul in, include Carpinteria, Malibu, Venice, Ocean Beach in San Francisco, and Torrey Pines State Reserve near San Diego. New research shows just what kind of economic cost the rising levels will create for the state's beaches. Reuters reports that economists at San Francisco State University spent two years creating projections for what losses coastal communities could face if beaches disappear with rising seas. The economists used the forecasts that sea levels will rise between three and six feet by 2100.

Looking at everything from real estate to the cost of prevention measures, they found that the state could see an economic loss of anywhere from $600 million to $1 billion combined for the five areas studied. Venice Beach would be the worst off, and could lose as much as $96 million if it sees a projected 2-meter rise over the next 90 years. Even if the beach only sees a 1-meter rise, it will still lose an estimated $31.6 million.

Reuters notes that this is just for these five areas -- the total losses along the California coast will be much more costly: "A more comprehensive 2009 study by the Pacific Institute, an environmental think tank, concluded that nearly 500,000 people and $100 billion worth of property along California's entire coast were at risk of facing severe flooding from rising sea levels this century unless new safeguards were put in place."

"If beaches disappear, shrink and erode, we are going to have less tourism," said Phillip King, associate professor of economics at San Francisco State University. "We took the best available science, and it's possible the (estimated) costs are still too low."

Sea level rise will affect coastlines everywhere, and California may not seem that bad off when compared to the losses that will be seen in the southwest, especially Florida which will have large tracts of everglade wilderness disappear underwater. Indeed, entire countries will disappear, such as sea-level-posterchild the Maldives. There are many places in the world that will simply fade into the depths, and the beaches of California may be no different.

Follow Jaymi on Twitter for more stories like this
More on Rising Sea Levels
Sea Level Rise Since 19th Century Greater Than Any Time In Past 2,100 Years
Multi-Meter Sea Level Rise by 2100 Certain With Business As Usual Emissions: James Hansen
Mainstream Media Has Accurately Portrayed Sea Level Rise Projections For Past 20 Years

Related Content on Treehugger.com