Skip to main content

Study: Rising Sea Levels Could Cost More Than California’s Worst Wildfires

Waves wash over riprap along Cortez Avenue in Imperial Beach, Jan. 18, 2019.

Photo by Erik Anderson

Above: Waves wash over riprap along Cortez Avenue in Imperial Beach, Jan. 18, 2019.

We're sorry. This audio clip is no longer available. A transcript has been made available.

A new study suggests the economic impact of rising sea levels in California over the next century could be higher than the most costly natural disasters in state history.

The study from the U.S. Geological Survey is considered the most extensive to date on sea level rise in the state. It looks at the potential impacts of sea level rise when combined with other factors such as storm-driven flooding and beach erosion.

When these other elements are factored in, researchers found "over $150 billion of property equating to more than 6 percent of the state’s GDP and 600,000 people could be impacted by dynamic flooding by 2100."

Researchers also found that the impacts of annual coastal flooding by the end of the century are of the same order of magnitude as Hurricane Katrina, and many times greater than the worst natural disasters in state history, including the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and the 2017 and 2018 wildfires seasons.

Patrick Barnard, the research director at the USGS Climate Impacts and Coastal Processes Team, authored the study. He joins Midday Edition to talk more about their findings.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.