Up to 70 percent of California’s iconic beaches are in danger of disappearing by the end of the century due to the effects of climate change, a new study has found.
In conducting the study, researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) used models to predict how sea level rise caused by climate change could wash away a significant portion of the coastline. by the year 2100. The USGS findings are in the process of being peer reviewed. -reviewed.
The extent to which California is in danger of losing its coastline depends largely on the severity of climate change in the coming decades. A minor sea level rise of 1.6 feet would cause the state to lose a fraction of its coastline compared to a 10 foot rise in sea level that could wipe out more than two-thirds of the state’s beaches.
Of course, sea level rise is not the only threat facing California due to climate change. The state is already experiencing changes in the length and intensity of the wildfire season, with fire risks now considered so severe that State Farm, the state’s largest homeowners insurance provider, is no longer offers new policies to California homeowners.
Meanwhile, the new study is more evidence that the state’s susceptibility to the impacts of climate change extends to its beaches.
“Beaches are perhaps the most iconic feature of California, and the potential to lose this identity is real,” Sean Vitousek, the study’s lead researcher, wrote in a commentary reported by The Guardian. “Losing the protective strip of beach sand between us and the strong surf exposes critical infrastructure, businesses and homes to damage. Beaches are natural resources and human management efforts will likely need to increase to preserve them.”
Vitousek also led a 2017 research project that studied coastal erosion in Southern California and similarly found that the region could lose up to two-thirds of its beaches in the next few decades. Researchers have identified a number of specific areas, including Humboldt Bay in Northern California and Newport Beach in Southern California, as being particularly at risk in the coming decades.
As a result of these studies, the California Coastal Commission urges municipalities to take a number of actions to combat coastal erosion, including building seawalls and restoring natural sand dunes.
If California’s beaches begin to disappear, they will likely become more difficult to access for people who do not live nearby, disproportionately communities of color, and low-income Californians.