A California government council is warning that climate change could cause ocean waters off the coast to rise far higher than previously anticipated ― an increase in sea-level by as much as 10 feet by the end of the century.
This worst-case scenario would destroy airports in Oakland and San Francisco, and would swamp roadways, low-lying bridges, railroad tracks, farmland, beaches and some towns. As many as 42,000 homes would be completely submerged, warns the report released this month by a California Ocean Protection Council advisory team. The council adopted an updated report with higher sea-level estimates on Wednesday.
The dire prediction follows the Louisiana governor’s declaration of an emergency over the state’s vanishing coastline. Louisiana could lose as much as 2,250 square miles of shorline to rising waters in the next 50 years, Gov. John Bel Edwards noted.
Miami also faces a dangerous increase in sea level. A study in Nature Climate Change last week warned that 2.5 million Miami residents could be driven from their homes by 2100.
In the worst-case scenario in California, waters would rise in the coming decades some 30 times faster than in the last century, according to the Ocean Protection Council report, “Rising Seas in California: An Update on Sea-level Rise Science.”
Without a dramatic change in fossil-fuel emissions, a separate study this month by the U.S. Geological Survey estimated, rising sea level would wipe out up to 67 percent of the beaches in Southern California by 2100.
In the best-case scenario — only if fossil-fuel emissions are significantly curbed — levels in the San Francisco Bay area would still increase up to 2.4 feet. Even that could be devastating to property, infrastructure and the economy, the council’s report warns.
The team revised earlier estimates upward because ice sheets in the Antarctic and Greenland are melting at an increasingly rapid pace. In addition, global warming effects are already being seen, and new discoveries have added to scientific knowledge about what’s happening, according to the report. The report was last revised four years ago.
California has some of the toughest anti-pollution measures in the nation, yet its 1,100-mile coastline is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Researchers now believe Antarctic ice melts hit the West Coast particularly hard because of the Earth’s rotation and gravitational pull on ocean waters. “For every foot of global sea-level rise caused by the loss of ice on West Antarctica, sea-level will rise approximately 1.25 feet along the California coast,” the report notes.
U.S. policy is unlikely to turn the corner and severely curb fossil fuel use and emissions under President Donald Trump, who has called climate change a “hoax,” and Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, who says he is skeptical that humans and CO2 are the main cause of global warming.
The Ocean Protection Council was created by California to help prepare for the consequences of rising ocean levels, including property destruction and economic impact.