Summary of Talk
For Our Changing Oceans Conference
Economic Impacts of Sea Level Rise to Select California Coastal Areas
Philip King PhD
The California coast is at risk to storm surges and erosion processes and these processes are exacerbated by sea level rise, threatening valuable infrastructure, ecosystems and recreational, particularly in or near major cities. Policymakers will be charged with making critical adaptation decisions (e.g., armor the coast, nourish shorelines, abandon and relocate infrastructure) to limit the impacts of a changing climate; the cost of adaptation, while expensive, may be less costly than doing nothing.
Past planning-level studies assessing the economic costs of sea-level rise are primarily “macro” in form—they rely on highly aggregated data sets forfeiting precision. While macro-scale damage assessments provide valuable information for regional, state and national policymakers, such studies fail to provide local jurisdictions with a clear understanding of site-specific risks. This study aims to evaluate the economic costs of sea-level rise on a more disaggregated, “micro” level than most previous studies of sea level rise. Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and supplemental economic and statistical modeling software were the primary analysis tools used to identify and calculate economic losses in the study areas. We estimate economic losses in 2050 and 2100, examining three sea-level rise scenarios: 1.0 m, 1.4 m, and 2.0 m of mean sea-level rise by 2100. Estimated losses include: inundation to structures, upland erosion and shoreline erosion including loss of beach recreation and ecosystem services.
The study focused on six sites in California. My talk will present detailed results from two urban sites: Ocean Beach, San Francisco and Venice Beach, Los Angeles. Conservative estimates of economic losses due to additional sea level rise at the two sites are in the range of $500 to $600 million. These results are intended to increase the relevance of coastal economic impact studies to local planners and policymakers.