Learn about sea level rise science, its physical impacts, and their conseqences for coastal resources and communities
In the past century, global mean sea level has increased by 7 to 8 inches and it is extremely likely (>95% probability) that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed atmospheric and oceanic warming. Given current trends in greenhouse gas emissions and increasing global temperatures, sea level rise is expected to accelerate in the coming decades, with scientists projecting as much as a 66-inch increase in sea level along segments of California's coast by the year 2100. While over the next few decades, the most damaging events are likely to be dominated by large El Niño - driven storm events in combination with high tides and large waves, impacts will generally become more frequent and more severe in the latter half of this century.
The impacts of sea level rise in California will affect almost every facet of our natural and built environments. Natural flooding, erosion, and storm event patterns are likely to be exacerbated by sea level rise, leading to significant social, environmental, and economic impacts. Through its Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance and ancillary efforts, the Coastal Commission advances, supports, and helps to fund California's preparation for these critical challenges to ensure a resilient coast for present and future generations.
Following two sets of document revisions and two extended public comment periods, the Coastal Commission unanimously adopted the Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance document on Wednesday, August 12, 2015 at its hearing in Chula Vista. The interpretive guidelines are intended to assist Local Coastal Programs and Coastal Development Permit applicants prepare for sea level rise within the context of the Coastal Act. The Guidance can also support other planning activities such as the development of Port Master Plans, Long Range Development Plans, and Public Works Plans, when taken in conjunction with relevant policies and legislation.
If you are interested in a presentation or training session related to the adopted Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance, please contact the Sea Level Rise Team at SLRGuidanceDocument@coastal.ca.gov for more information about event scheduling.
Governor Brown's April 2015 Executive Order B-30-15 calls for state agencies to take climate change into account in their planning and investment decisions. It requires agencies to ensure that priority is given to actions that build climate preparedness and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, provide flexible and adaptive approaches to prepare for uncertain climate impacts, protect the state's most vulnerable populations, and prioritize natural infrastructure solutions. For the full story, visit the Governor's website
Approved in September 2014, AB2516 establishes a new database for California that will provide information on sea level rise planning activities to support coordination, collaboration and prevent redundancy across named entities. Voluntary contributions from local governments and others will also be welcomed. The database will support statewide assessment of adaptation aspects including objectives, actions and next steps, the ability to overcome barriers, decisions, processes, and capacity. Expected to come online in early 2016, the database will soon receive its first round of planning information through a survey tool. For more information, see the bill and the Ocean Protection Council's website.
The California Natural Resources Agency, in coordination with other state agencies, has released an update to its 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy, which augments previously identified adaptation strategies in light of advances in climate science and risk management options. In its Coast and Oceans chapter, the 2014 Safeguarding California document identifies amendments to Local Coastal Programs as a key strategy for addressing sea level rise in California. It also calls for sustainable community planning and design, and the protection of natural resources and public access to coastal areas, in the face of climate change. To learn more, see CNRA's website.
Based on its 2011 State Sea-Level Rise Resolution, the Ocean Protection Council has updated its interim Guidance document for addressing sea level rise in the State of California to include the best current science. Specifically, the 2013 State Sea-Level Rise Guidance provides information and recommendations to enhance consistency across agencies in their development of approaches to sea level rise. For more information, visit OPC's website.
The Coastal Act mandates the California Coastal Commission to "protect, conserve, restore, and enhance" the state's coastal resources. Policies on hazard avoidance and coastal resource protection provide the basis for the Commission to consider the impacts of sea level rise. The Commission has long considered sea level rise, erosion rates, and other effects of a dynamic climate in its analysis of permits and LCPs, staff recommendations, and Commission decisions. When Section 30006.5 was added to the Coastal Act in 1992, it directed the Commission to both develop its own expertise and interact with the scientific community on various technical issues, including coastal erosion and sea level rise, specifically.