Climatic Change

, Volume 111, Issue 1, pp 45–73 | Cite as

California coastal management with a changing climate

  • Ellen HanakEmail author
  • Georgina Moreno


With over 2,000 miles (3,218 km) of ocean and estuarine coastline, California faces significant coastal management challenges as a result of climate change-induced sea level rise. Under high emission scenarios, recent models predict 1.4 m or more of sea level rise by 2100, accompanied by increasing storm surges. This article investigates the most important issues facing coastal managers, explores the policy tools available for adapting to the impacts of climate change, assesses institutional constraints to adaptation, and identifies priorities for future research and policy action. We find that adaptation tools exist for dealing with anticipated increases in coastal erosion and flooding, but they involve significant costs and tradeoffs. In particular, coastal armoring, such as seawalls, can protect developed coastal lands, but destroys beaches and habitat. Although California already has policies and institutions that aim to balance the competing objectives for coastal development, management agencies are at the early stages of understanding how to facilitate adaptation. Research priorities to inform coastal adaptation planning include: (i) inventorying coastal resources to provide a firmer basis for balancing decisions on property and habitat protection, (ii) identifying opportunities for coastal habitat migration, (iii) assessing the vulnerabilities of existing and planned coastal infrastructure, and (iv) experimenting with alternatives to armoring as a way of managing the changing coastline.


Flood Risk Coastal Erosion Federal Emergency Management Agency Flood Management Coastal Flooding 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We wish to thank the many people who gave of their time to discuss coastal management issues with us during the course of this research, whose names are listed at the end of this article. We also wish to thank three anonymous reviewers of this article and the following people for providing helpful reviews on an earlier draft: Tony Brunello, Mike Connor, Lesley Ewing, Guido Franco, Steve Goldbeck, Tami Grove, Charlie Kolstad, Joe LaClair, Susi Moser, Caitlin Sweeney, Michael Teitz, Will Travis, and Lynette Ubois. Sarah Swanbeck provided excellent research assistance. We would like to thank Next Ten, Pacific Gas and Electric and The Nature Conservancy for funding for this research. We alone are responsible for any remaining errors or omissions.


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Interviews (Conducted between May 2007 and October 2008)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Policy Institute of CaliforniaSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Analysis GroupLos AngelesUSA

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