Climate models show coastal locations imperiled by rising seas

Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 12:34 PM CDT
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LOS ANGELES (KCAL/KCBS) - Climate change is a major part of President Joe Biden’s agenda - an item that will be front and center during his upcoming trip to the U.N. Climate Change Conference.

Could 50 cities around the world change completely or even disappear as a result of climate change? One nonprofit said they could, and they want to show you how.

New climate models underscore just how serious the problem is.

They show that parts of southern California could be underwater in the next century if people don’t do something now.

“Their ability to exist into the future depends on the actions we take,” said Benjamin Strauss, CEO of Climate Central, which did the research and created startling images of landmarks around the world, including a few parts of southern California like Long Beach and Huntington Beach.

The Santa Monica Pier is a landmark, but these models show it could all disappear.

A model shows the Santa Monica boardwalk underwater, projections climate scientists said could come true in the next few centuries if temperatures and sea levels rise without humans intervening.

“It’s really sad to think it could disappear one day beneath rising seas,” Strauss said.

The projections range from 1 to 4 degrees of warming with the worst-case scenarios showing seas rising by more than 20 feet.

In images of Long Beach, high tides push in all the way to the 405 Freeway, and much of Huntington Beach is also underwater.

“Really neighborhoods from Golden West all the way out to Los Altos would be well below sea level, could be 10 feet almost,” Strauss said.

While images like these could be hundreds of years into the future, scientists said climate change is already wreaking havoc along the coastline.

“This is not something that’s off into the future; this is happening right now,” said John Dorsey, professor at Loyola Marymount University who studies rising sea levels.

He points out that losing beaches and the tourists they bring could drain the southern California economy, and said infrastructure like water lines, sewer lines and highways would also be lost

“If we get this coastal erosion, that could erode in and start destroying that kind of infrastructure. We will be paying billions of dollars to try to move that inland,” Dorsey said.

Climate scientists said some of this could be avoided if people take major steps to cut emissions in the next decade.

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