Is California preparing for climate change? Results from new climate adaptation survey

May 29, 2012, Stanford University

A majority of California's coastal planners and resource managers now view the threats from climate change as sufficiently likely that practical steps on the ground need to be taken to protect against growing threats, according to results from a new survey published by Stanford University's Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) and the California Sea Grant.

Survey respondents acknowledge the need to prepare for changes along the coast that might result from and other impacts, such as more floods, loss of beach access, and potential damage to , including , roads and .

The new survey – an update on a similar one conducted six years ago – shows a strong uptick in California coastal professionals' attention to preparing and planning for . Results reveal that managers are ready and willing to develop adaptation strategies, despite tighter belts in most local and state agencies in recent years. But lack of money to prepare and implement plans, insufficient staff and lack of technical know-how are significant challenges.

"Communities are willing to adapt to the reality of climate change, but they are struggling. This is a story that needs to be told when billions of dollars in assets are at risk," said Susanne Moser, Director of Susanne Moser Research & Consulting in Santa Cruz and a Research Associate of COS. She worked with colleagues at University of Southern California Sea Grant, California Sea Grant and the University of California, Berkeley, and an unprecedented collaborative of 12 other coastal organizations in California to systematically probe coastal professionals' knowledge and attitudes toward global warming, their level of preparedness for the future, and the challenges they face in taking action.

The survey shows that 40 percent of coastal professionals who are responsible for protecting natural resources, property and human safety have begun trying to understand the risks they face, and another 40 percent are actively planning for climate change impacts, such as sea level rise, coastal flooding and erosion. Yet, only about 10 percent are actually doing things on the ground that may reduce the full brunt of climate change.

"The big take-away from the survey is that coastal managers are knowledgeable and understand the importance of preparing for climate change," said USC Sea Grant Associate Director Phyllis Grifman, a co-author of the survey report, Rising to the Challenge: Results of the 2011 California Coastal Adaptation Needs Assessment. "And they are doing what they can even before there is a mandate to develop adaptation plans. They know it is important, and they are concerned, both personally and at work, but they need help."

Most of the nearly 600 coastal professionals who responded to the survey describe a work environment that is already consumed by other pressing issues and constrained by limited fiscal and staff resources. More than 70 percent also indicate that they believe the severity of their leading management challenges, such as protecting water quality and wetland habitats, will further intensify in the next five years, creating yet higher hurdles in meeting the state's call to prepare and plan for rising sea levels.

The survey also allowed coastal managers to identify the information, training needs and tools that would make their work more effective. According to Juliette Finzi Hart, Regional Research and Planning Specialist at USC Sea Grant and lead author of the survey report, "The organizations that worked together on this survey have an opportunity – and a responsibility – to help California coastal managers meet the challenge of climate change. Information alone won't solve the problem, but we can help build coastal professionals' capacity to make our coasts a safer place to live and work."

Today at the Headwaters to Oceans (H2O) Conference in San Diego, Grifman will moderate a discussion of the survey results at a session on climate adaptation and coastal management. Panelists include Hart and co-authors Monique Myers of California Sea Grant, and Julia Ekstrom, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley.

In a second panel today, co-author Adina Abeles of COS will moderate a session of several survey partners addressing what California coastal managers need, in terms of information, training and tools, to deal with sea level rise and other climate change impacts, and how these organizations are helping to provide this technical assistance.

The current survey revealed a strong increase in adaptation activity compared to the very low level observed at the time of the first coastal adaptation survey conducted in 2005/2006. That survey – conducted by researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, including Moser – found that among the local governments in coastal areas that were surveyed, only two counties at that time had begun considering climate change in their planning efforts, and another six cities and four counties were in the process. Five years later a marked shift is evident: today 93 percent of all survey respondents (including representatives from local, regional, state and federal entities) say they are in the process of understanding their climate change risks, assessing their adaptation options, or implementing a strategy.

"The survey results are timed perfectly with ongoing state efforts to update the 2012 California Climate Adaptation Strategy," said Abe Doherty, a project specialist at the Ocean Protection Council, one of the 15 organizations that collaborated on the survey. Others include the California Coastal Commission, NOAA Coastal Services Center and Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing System.

"It is important to get feedback on what coastal managers are using for information and what they need for technical assistance and training," said Doherty, who is currently drafting the ocean and coastal resources portion of the climate adaptation strategy. "The barriers are mostly fiscal for communities. We know we have limited funds, so what is the best approach for moving forward? We have to craft strategies and focus staff time strategically. The results help us prioritize staff time and resources."

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1.5 / 5 (8) May 29, 2012
Climate change science has done to science what naughty priests did for the church.
4 / 5 (8) May 29, 2012
No. The church did that to science by fostering the belief that being uneducated, while holding fixed points of view, is somehow an equivalently valid approach to things.

It should really be noted that such disbelief in climate science (and science in general) is a wholly US-american phenomenon.
I guess with education it's like with anything else: you get what you pay for...or not as the case may be.
3.9 / 5 (7) May 29, 2012
Climate change science has done to science what naughty priests did for the church.

People who continually oppose/critcize/bash climate science and science in general do for the human race what Hitler did for Jews.

The article is talking about modifications that will one day be required and will save lives, infrastucture and state economic stability. Why is this bad?
not rated yet May 29, 2012
maybe they should clear that area out, & put it up as a protected/ off-limits geographical zone
2 / 5 (8) May 30, 2012

"It should really be noted that such disbelief in climate science (and science in general) is a wholly US-american phenomenon."
You give yourself away too easily. Science is not about belief or disbelief, that's religion. The scientific method requires that you make an hypothesis which you then try and disprove with rigorous testing. Skepticism is science and anyone who advocates blindly following an imagined consensus is twisting science on it's head.
Moreover, I think you'll find the outsiders at least as qualified as the lemmings to talk on the subject of climate. The real argument is between the empirical evidence deniers (the computer modelers) and the evidence itself.http://www.nal-js...tion.pdf
No one "disbelieves in climate science". It's the magnitude of warming caused by CO2 that is being discussed. Real world data trumps computer models every time.
4.4 / 5 (7) May 30, 2012
You give yourself away too easily. Science is not about belief or disbelief, that's religion.

That's the point. The US is a incredibly extreme religious environment when compared with the rest of the world (including islamic nations).
Hence the disblief (and the inability to face facts/data) there.

4.2 / 5 (5) May 30, 2012

Real world data trumps computer models every time.

I agree. Real world data is showing a serious rise in sea level in the last 2 or 3 decades. We have entire Alaskan communities that live on coastal islands having to be relocated onto land because the rising sea levels are eroding away their homes. Meanwhile, land managers here in Ca. see that the sea is continuously encroaching into new area's.

It is really hard to argue that stuff people can actually see with their own eyes isn't happening. In some sense, it doesn't matter who is to blame for the changes happening all around us getting worse year after year. Land and coastal managers have to deal with reality, not some ideologically driven fantasy.
4 / 5 (4) May 30, 2012
Why don't we all buy them a one-way trip onto one of those really beautiful (and barely above sea level) island nations - all expenses payed? Rising sea levels not being real they should have a great time for the rest of their lives.
If climate change is real we'll be rid of them in one go.

I'd be willing to put my (tax)money where my mouth is on this one. Wonder if they'd do the same.
2.3 / 5 (3) May 30, 2012

"It should really be noted that such disbelief in climate science (and science in general) is a wholly US-american phenomenon." - Antialias

And a very good reason to work toward the eradication of the American State.
1.8 / 5 (5) May 30, 2012

Show us the data Parsec from my reading of it it's way more complicated than many of us have been led to believe. We are coming out of the little ice age and the sea levels have risen as the planet warms but the models state they should be rapidly accelerating which they aren't. Remember, correlation says nothing about causation and temperatures are still well below the Medieval Warm period. Science can be used to address anecdotal evidence.
antialias. Who says sea levels haven't been rising? Please post a link. This link is to show how complex the issue of sea level rise is.http://joannenova...=Feed%3A JoNova %28JoNova%29
Remember that plate tectonics is an issue too creating localized changes in sea levels independent of climate
3.7 / 5 (3) May 30, 2012
Plate tectonics eh?
So despite a net loss of glacial ice worldwide...which is water that ends up in the ocean, you're saying that the sea level rise causing the problems mentioned above can be attributed to plate's possible....but not likely. A tectonic shift causing sea level rise wouldn't be steady and gradual.
Regarding the MWP temperatures being well above temperatures today, are you talking global average, Europe only, Greenland...where?
3 / 5 (2) May 30, 2012
Plate tectonics can't be making sea level rise, because as all geologists know, the earth is growing as the universe around it expands.

Even people are getting bigger as the universe expands.

Here is a video that explains it all.

3 / 5 (2) May 30, 2012
To Gregor... breathing is far more complex than he can possibly imagine.

"Show us the data Parsec from my reading of it it's way more complicated than many of us have been led to believe." - Gregor
1 / 5 (3) May 31, 2012
Rubberman you seem worried about glaciers melting so you may be interested in this
5 / 5 (3) May 31, 2012
Rubberman you seem worried about glaciers melting so you may be interested in this

That story is also on this site. Maybe plate tectonics were resposible for the melting of the glaciers in the 30's....Come to think of it, the potholes on my street have been getting pretty large the last couple of years....damn plate tectonics!
1 / 5 (3) May 31, 2012
"And a very good reason to work toward the eradication of the American State."
Vendicar_Decarian reveals his agenda. Pure hate.
This is what the creature writes about itself.
"I bring order to chaos. The only good Libertarian is a dead Libertarian."
A pure bred, life long inhabitant of the DEMOCRAT PLANTATION.

5 / 5 (2) May 31, 2012
Better Cremated than Conservative.

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