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So Is It Flooding or Drying?

by Susannah Kopecky, published

So is it time to stock up on bottled water, or to buy a raft?

It's hard work living in California. On nearly a daily basis, residents are told they will either continue to suffer from droughts, or are being told to prepare for the impending massive flood on the way. According to a March report by the Pacific Institute, around $100 billion dollars worth of coastline property is in danger of being washed away.

This and more, according to "The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast," released by the Pacific Institute, a Oakland-based think tank, which focused on climate change issues in its recent findings. The PI focuses on three main areas of thought: "Water, Community Strategies for Sustainability and Justice, and Globalization. In addition, the Institute focuses on four initiatives: International Water and Communities, Water Use in Business, Climate Impacts and Adaptation, and Integrity of Science."

According to the report, nearly 500,000 people are expected to be affected by rising sea levels along the California coastline. The report sounds the alarm that the state is in for a "1.4-meter sea-level rise - if no adaptation actions are taken."

The report hypothesizes that poorer residents and some minorities are more "vulnerable" to the possible changes ahead... if changes are not made. Note: keep in mind the words of the report's disclaimer: the report was funded by the EPA, the state Energy Commission, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the state Department of Transportation and the California Ocean Protection Council. These agencies "make no warrant, express or implied, and assume no responsibility or liability for the results of any actions taken or other information developed based on this paper, nor does any party represent that the uses of this information will not infringe upon privately owned rights."

The Executive Summary of the report states that with climate change, the "mean sea level" will rise between 1 meter and 1.4 meters by 2100, owing to forecasted increased "flooding and erosion." With a 1.4 meter rise in sea level, 480,000 people will be "at risk of a 100 year flood event," particularly in Orange County, San Mateo County and Alameda County. The paper also finds that that "nearly $100 billion (in year 2000 dollars) worth of property... is at risk of flooding... if no adaptation actions are taken." According to the authors, about two thirds of the $100 billion in property is "concentrated" in the San Francisco Bay Area, the majority of which "is residential."

"Coastal armoring," or reinforcing, is projected to cost only $14 billion (again, "in year 2000 dollars"), while putting a stop to "continued developments in vulnerable areas" is another suggestion smiled upon.

The question does arise, however: with the growing population of California, would it not be more harmful to new residents, if there is a moratorium on coastline building, thus allowing for raised prices on the properties already there? (Supply and demand, supply and demand...) Being good environmental stewards is an important responsibility that goes with the benefit of living on the coast, but at what cost, one must wonder.

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