Image: Beach in Santa Monica, CA by Johnny Chau / Unsplash

Nearly 75 percent of California’s population lives in coastal counties and along the State’s iconic 1,100 miles of mainland coastline and the San Francisco Bay’s additional 500-mile shoreline. The ocean and coast contributed $41.9 billion to the state’s GDP, provided $19.8 billion in wages and salaries, and supplied 515,465 jobs in 2014. These figures demonstrate how much the people and economy of California rely on the coastline and the ocean. The short- and long-term risks from climate change, such as sea level rise, coastal erosion and beach loss, and ocean acidification will continue to affect a vast number of people and industries. California is one of the world leaders in both addressing climate change and protecting our coastal and ocean habitats and resources. Because of the ever-growing value of California’s coastal areas and our dependence on the coast and ocean for recreation, food, and critical infrastructure such as ports, airports, and power plants, it is important to assess how climate change will impact our ocean and coasts and how to best anticipate, plan, and prepare for these changing ocean conditions.

Sea-Level Rise

Sea-level rise is an immediate and real threat to lives, livelihoods, transportation, economies, and the environment in California. The vast majority of California’s population lives in coastal counties and will directly experience the effects of sea-level rise on their homes, roads, public services, and infrastructure. More frequent and chronic flooding and erosion are inevitable and inland populations are not immune from sea-level rise. Many of the facilities and much of the infrastructure that support California’s ocean economy, as well as the State’s many miles of public beaches, lie within a few feet of the present high tide line and therefore are at risk from future sea-level rise and coastal storm events as a result of a changing climate.

Ocean Acidification

Ocean acidity has increased by 30 percent and is expected to double over pre-industrial levels by the end of this century, as the ocean absorbs one-third of the carbon dioxide generated by human activities. Extensive field studies conducted worldwide already show significant impacts on fisheries and marine ecosystems from ocean acidification, which will worsen in the future. Continued scientific research is critical to advance understanding of the causes, extent and impacts of ocean acidification. Of equal importance is the development and implementation of actions to help reduce the causes of ocean acidification and protect coastal communities and the marine ecosystems from the impacts of an acidifying ocean.

Warming Ocean Temperatures

In addition to contributing to sea level rise, increasing ocean temperatures also has implications for ocean processes and marine ecosystems, including coastal upwelling, ocean productivity, and species distributions and abundances. This can affect the health of fisheries, the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and disease in marine organisms, and the spread of marine invasive species, and thus impact the ocean resources upon which California’s population depend. Therefore, understanding changing ocean temperatures and their effects, along with the effects of other changing ocean conditions, is needed in order for California to plan, prepare, and manage for these potential impacts.  

You can learn more about the actions California is taking to address sea level rise, ocean acidification, and other changes to our oceans from a changing climate through the Ocean Protection Council's climate change program.

Integration with Assembly Bill 2516 (AB2516)

Passed in 2014, AB2516 (Gordon) called for the California Natural Resources Agency, in collaboration with the Ocean Protection Council (OPC), to conduct biannual surveys of sea-level rise planning information to catalog California’s efforts to prepare for rising seas. To improve accessibility and usefulness of these resources to support sea-level rise adaptation and resilience, OPC has partnered with OPR to host the AB2516 resources in the Adaptation Clearinghouse. Resources collected as part of this survey include studies, vulnerability assessments, and local coastal programs, among others. Resources gathered through future surveys, as required by AB182 (Berman), will also be included in the Clearinghouse.

All Resources for Ocean And Coast


Adapting to Rising Tides

San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). 2018
Flooding Sea level rise Snowpack
Data, tools, and research Planning and policy guidance
Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) is a program of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) that identifies how current and future flooding will affect communities, infrastructure, ecosystems and economy in the San Francisco Bay Area. The ART Program is integrating adaptation into local and regional planning and decision-making by leading collaborative adaptation planning projects, building regional capacity for adaptation, and providing a portfolio of resources, including how-to guides, findings by sector and issue, and maps and data products.

Adapting to Rising Tides: Vulnerability & Risk Assessment Report - Alameda County

San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). 2012
Flooding Sea level rise
Assessment
Adapting to Rising Tides (ART) is a program of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), which brings together local, regional, state and federal agencies and organizations, as well as non-profit and private associations for a collaborative planning project on sea level rise and climate change. This report is one of several products from these planning efforts. Specifically it is a focused assessment of Alameda County’s shoreline and flood inundation vulnerability due to future sea level rise. For the project an innovative mapping approach, which allows a single map to represent multiple potential future sea level rise and storm surge scenarios, was used that can be applied to other areas. The work presented in this report can inform near-term actions to address sea level rise. It can also inform when (i.e., at what level of sea level rise), we pass a tipping point where discrete actions along the shoreline are no longer sufficient to address these growing threats.

California Coastal Erosion Reponses to Sea Level Rise - Analysis and Mapping

Pacific Institute. 2009
Flooding Sea level rise
Data, tools, and research
This report documents future coastal erosion hazards under different sea level rise scenarios. The report also provides details the methodology used to estimate potential erosion. Since the method was develop in a modular way updated estimates could easily be developed with new data.

Case Studies of Natural Shoreline Infrastructure in Coastal California

The Nature Conservancy. 2017
Flooding Sea level rise
Case Study Project or Example
This report summarizes natural infrastructure projects for a range of settings in coastal California. Each case study covers the background, permitting, planning, implementation, performance, and key lessons learned from each project in order to provide the critical information needed to implement successful adaptation strategies to address coastal issues, and inspire other communities by highlighting the lessons learned.

Central Coast Wetlands Group - Climate Change

Central Coast Wetlands Group. 2017
Flooding Sea level rise
Communication or educational material
This website demonstrates the work of the Central Coast Wetlands Group (CCWG), which aims to coordinate the advancement of wetland science and management on the Central Coast. It provides an overview of the different sea level rise adaptation efforts that relate to or impact wetlands in the central coast. For example the site provides information on the update to the Greater Monterey County IRWM Plan.

City of Foster City - Levee Protection Planning and Improvements Project - Basis of Design Overview

City of Foster City. 2016
Flooding Sea level rise
Assessment
This report provides a general overview of design considerations for Foster City’s eight-mile levee system. In 2014 the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) completed the Central and South San Francisco Bay Coastal Flood Hazard Studies associated with the California Coastal Analysis and Mapping Project (CCAMP) and determined that Foster City’s levees do not meet the required freeboard elevation for accreditation per Title 44 of the Code of Federal Regulations Section 65.10 (44 CFR 65.10). Since Foster City’s levees must be improved to meet FEMA requirements the city is working to include future sea level rise into its new levee design. This report builds on the analysis of the levee improvement alternatives in the 2015 Foster City Levee Protection Planning Study and provides preliminary design for improvements based on additional field reconnaissance, detailed wave run-up calculations, and preliminary geotechnical investigations undertaken since October 2015. The report concludes with a gross affordability assessment and narrows the list of possible levee designs to three main options all based on a hybrid construction approach with different design heights.

Coastal Resilience Project - Monterey Bay

The Nature Conservancy. 2016
Sea level rise
Communication or educational material
The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) leads the development of Coastal Resilience, an approach and online decision support tool to help address the devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters, which it started in 2007. The Monterey Bay region is part of this global TNC network. TNC is working with a suite of partners to find multi-benefit adaptation solutions. TNC has done analysis exploring adaptation approaches for the highway that maximize the use and persistence of natural infrastructure in the face of climate change. Using cost benefit analysis methods for this region TNC finds that in almost all cases, the least economically beneficial adaptation approach involves shoreline armoring.

Coastal Resilience Project - Santa Barbara

The Nature Conservancy. 2016
Sea level rise
Communication or educational material
The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) leads the development of Coastal Resilience, an approach and online decision support tool to help address the devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters, which it started in 2007. Santa Barbara County is part of this global TNC network. The work in Santa Barbara is primarily centered on filling information gaps, creating maps of projected coastal hazards, and sharing the new information. This work creates ways for staff, decision-makers, and residents to interact with vulnerability data and develop scientifically sound and robust adaptation strategies for the future.

Coastal Resilience Project - Ventura County

The Nature Conservancy. 2016
Sea level rise
Communication or educational material
The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) leads the development of Coastal Resilience, an approach and online decision support tool to help address the devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters, which it started in 2007. Ventura County is part of this global TNC network. In Ventura County TNC assembled a Steering Committee that represents diverse stakeholders who are empowered to make decisions. The project explores current challenges from multiple perspectives and proposes solutions mostly from a natural infrastructure approach.

Combating Sea Level Rise in Southern California: How to Seize Adaptation Opportunities While Minimizing Legal Risk

Hastings Environmental Law Journal. 2013
Flooding Sea level rise
Data, tools, and research
This article demonstrates how Southern California local governments can harness their existing regulatory authority to support sea-level rise adaptation strategies. It shows that by harness four legal doctrines – 1) the California Coastal Act, 2) the public trust doctrine, 3) the constitutional takings doctrine, and 4) the California Environmental Quality Act communities can be proactive and smart about decision-making while still mitigating potential legal liabilities.