Cliff erosion, Isla Vista, CA (credit: USGS)
To many kids growing up along the Souther California coastline in the 1950-60's, The Beach Boys provide the soundtrack for that idyllic time. Who doesn't remember their classic songs like Surfin' Safari, California Girls, or Surfin' USA? However, the Beach Boys would now need to sing a different tune as climate change has begun impacting those same iconic beaches along the entire California coast they praised. From San Diego to Arcadia near Oregon, beaches are being eroded by rising tides.
Researchers at San Francisco State University and supported by the California Department of Boating and Waterways has projected economic impacts to coastal communities by climate change. Five stretches of California coastline were studied. They including San Francisco's Ocean Beach and the Southern California beaches of Carpentaria, Malibu, Venice, and Torrey Pines State Reserve near San Diego. Venice Beach could be especially impacted by climate change from their analysis. According to the environmental economist Phillip King who led the study:
"If beaches disappear, shrink, and erode, we are going to have less tourism. We took the best available science and it's possible our estimated costs are still too low."
Building resilience into coastal zones ranges from replenishing depleted beach sand; constructing concrete barriers offshore to break wave impacts; changing building codes near cliffs; or managing a retreat inland. Each has been tried and they are expensive. They do illustrate the difficulty of factoring an environmental externality, ie wave erosion, into economic analysis for coastal planning and building designs.
It may be time to shout "surf's up"!