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Climate change threatens California beaches: study

By Staff Writer (AFP) - September 15, 2011

Global warming could cost California beach communities hundreds of million dollars due to lost tourism and other income earned on the famously surfer-friendly coastline, a new study said.

Storm damage and erosion will narrow beaches over the next century, cutting facilities for tourists and wildlife, said the report which looked at five coastal communities including Venice beach and Malibu.

From the Beach Boys to “Baywatch,” California is famous for its oceanfront lifestyle and year-round sunshine, but the Golden State needs to prepare for the encroaching Pacific, said the study commissioned by the California Department of Boating and Waterways.

“California?s shorelines are ecologically, economically and socially important,” it said.

Coastal erosion, “which is projected to accelerate in the coming century,” threatens ecosystems, reduces shoreline storm buffering capacities, and limits recreational opportunity, it said.

“You need a certain amount of space for people to recreate, and, as beaches erode, you lose beach size and you lose tourism,” said study author Phillip King, economics professor at San Francisco State University.

Specifically the report looked at the impact of rising sea levels on five locations from San Diego in the south, to Los Angeles’ Venice Beach and two seafront areas in Malibu, up to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

It modeled three sea level rise scenarios: of one meter (three feet), 1.4 meters (3.3 feet), and two meters (6.5 feet) by the year 2100.

Venice Beach, famous for its medical marijuana shops, skateboard park and open-air bodybuilding, could lose up to $440 million in tourist and other revenue if the Pacific rises 55 inches (1.4 meters) by 2100, said the study.

An hour up the coast, a dropoff in visitors to Malibu’s Zuma and Broad beaches could cost up to $500 million in lost tourist income and tax revenue, according to the report.

“The economic risks in this report, presented conservatively, demonstrate the scale and importance of sea-level rise impacts in a local planning context,” said the report.

“Sea level rise is here… and we need to start planning for it,” added King.