The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast

Published: March 11, 2009
Authors: Matthew Heberger, Heather Cooley, Pablo Herrera, Peter Gleick, Eli Moore
Pages: 115

In an analysis prepared for three California state agencies, the Pacific Institute estimates that 480,000 people; a wide range of critical infrastructure; vast areas of wetlands and other natural ecosystems; and nearly $100 billion in property along the California coast are at increased risk from flooding from a 1.4-meter sea-level rise – if no adaptation actions are taken.

The Pacific Institute report, The Impacts of Sea-Level Rise on the California Coast, concludes that sea-level rise will inevitably change the character of the California coast, and that adaptation strategies must be evaluated, tested, and implemented if the risks identified in the report are to be reduced or avoided. Populations and critical infrastructure at risk are shown in detailed maps prepared by the Pacific Institute available online here.

The report also explores how vulnerability to sea-level rise will be heightened among Californians who do not have a vehicle, do not speak English, or who live near hazardous waste facilities. Low-income households and communities of color are over-represented in these more vulnerable groups.

Funded by the California Energy Commission, California Department of Transportation, and the Ocean Protection Council, the report was authored by the Pacific Institute’s Matthew Heberger, Heather Cooley, Pablo Herrera, Peter H. Gleick, and Eli Moore.


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The Pacific Institute can carry out sea-level-rise analysis for other shoreline communities. For information, contact Nancy Ross at nross (at) pacinst.org, 510-251-1600 x106.