Climate Change Adaptation

Credit: Steve ShinnProtecting Our Coast and Ocean From Climate Change

Climate change is significantly altering California’s coastal watersheds and marine ecosystems.  The most immediate impacts are ocean acidification and sea level rise.  Ocean acidification, fueled by the ocean’s absorption of carbon dioxide emissions, will lower ocean pH and trigger a cascade of impacts to California's water quality and marine life.  For example, studies suggest that acidic water will dissolve sea creatures’ protective shells and reduce the abundance and diversity of the state's historic kelp forests.  Shifting precipitation patterns, warmer air and water temperatures, storm surges and sea level rise similarly will have widespread and serious impacts to creeks, streams, rivers, estuaries, coastal watersheds and our beaches.

At least a 16-inch rise in sea level is projected along the California coast by 2050, with a 50-inch rise by the turn of the century. A recent analysis prepared by the Pacific Institute estimates that critical infrastructure, essential coastal wetlands and other habitats, and an estimated 100 billion dollars of property along the coast face steadily increasing flooding risks if no adaptation actions are taken; see maps predicting the future impacts of sea level rise in California.  Despite growing information about the projected impacts of climate change, adaptation strategies remain largely in the planning phase.

undefinedCCKA Is Taking Action

In November 2010, in response to comments by CCKA and groups nationwide, U.S. EPA issued a memo that recognizes that carbon dioxide is a water pollutant and affirms that states should list coastal waters impaired by ocean acidification under the Clean Water Act. CCKA is working to ensure that climate change-driven impairments to California waterways such as ocean acidification and reduced flows are addressed by key water quality protection policies such as the California Ocean Plan and "303(d) List" of impaired waters.

In December 2009, the California Natural Resources Agency and Climate Action Team released the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy (CAS Report), which outlines a suite of potential adaptation strategies.  Thanks to comments by CCKA and a coalition of coastal climate adaptation activists, many key strategies to safeguard coastal ecosystems and communities were incorporated into a Resolution on Sea Level Rise adopted by the Ocean Protection Council.  CCKA is taking action to prompt all levels of California government agencies, including the Department of Water Resources and Strategic Growth Council to issue adaptation guidance before economic and environmental impacts escalate.  CCKA is working with local Waterkeeper organizations to demonstrate how coastal communities can prepare adaptation action plans that address sea level rise impacts and enhance the natural adaptive capacity of coastal ecosystems