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.

Making California’s Coast Resilient to Sea Level Rise: Principles for Aligned State Action

In early 2020 CNRA Secretary Crowfoot and CalEPA Secretary Blumenfeld convened two high-level meetings of 17 state agencies to co-develop a set of Sea Level Rise Principles. The final set of SLR Principles represent a commitment to aligning state planning, policy setting, project development, collaboration, and decision-making around sea level rise (SLR). They are intended to unify state agencies in effective, coordinated action toward climate resilience grounded in science, partnership, communication, and local support. 

The SLR Principles will guide state agencies’ sea level rise initiatives with a common, clear, and foundational vision. They describe unified, effective SLR resilience action in six thematic areas: best available science, partnerships, communications, local support, alignment, and coastal resilience projects. The Principles will anchor collaboration across state agencies to effectively build California’s resilience to sea level rise.

Assembly Bill 2516

Passed in 2014, AB 2516 (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 AB 2516 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 AB 182 (Berman), will also be included in the Adaptation Clearinghouse.

All Resources for Ocean And Coast