While future predictions of global warming and sea rise are changing (see earlier blog) a remarkably diverse number of communities and organizations are looking ahead.  Many are making assessments of future risks.  Some are taking small steps right away to address what looks like near term increase in severe weather events. I start with the small and make my way to the large.


One morning in early December 2017 a group of 20-30 gathered  in the Miramar Beach parking lot in Half Moon Bay California1 (2010 population 11,324) a small community along Route 1, the scenic seacoast route from Los Angeles to San Francisco.  It was the day of the King Tide the day twice a year when the highest tides occurred during stormy weather this created flooding in the parking lot and the adjacent boulevard.

The group had gathered to hear Patrick Barnard a coastal geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey explained that a 1-foot rise is expected by some estimates to arrive by 2050 or possibly by 2030.

Because of geological conditions the shoreline from Pescadoro, 33 miles south, to San Francisco.32 miles north, s known to be the most rapidly eroding stretch of the 840 mile long (3rd longest after Alaska and Florida) coast of California. There are plans to address erosion at seaside roadways and moving sand to protect shore bluff erosion.


On the other hand, up the road in San Francisco the city has invited (as only San Francisco would do) ten “design” teams to come up with physical schemes for addressing sea rise, “Resilient by Design”. Most of these seem to be architecture firms who are partnering with other disciplines.  One requirement is to include government and public participation in arriving at a solution. This makes sense give the dense urban nature of the city. It is a year-long program.


Meanwhile across the country as noted on an “Inside Climate News” webpage “Naval Station Norfolk Virginia, home to the US Navy Atlantic Fleet, floods not just in heavy rains or during hurricanes. It floods when the sun is shining, too, if the tide is high or the winds are right. It floods all the time”. The base and city are in serious trouble from sea rise and soil settlement.  Being the Navy they have a record of increasing “nuisance flooding” over the last 80 years.

The facility is the densest military installation in the Country and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center says that about 18 inches of sea level rise is a “tipping point” a dramatic risk of serious damage to infrastructure. Yet at the apparent direction of the government the Department of Defense has no current plan to address this.

The City of Norfolk surrounding the base suffers the same sinking soil and sea rise problems.  The main road to the base is impassable for several days a year.  The main Art Museum for the city has moved all of its electrical and mechanical systems from the basement to the roof.


The DOD is not blind to climate change risk.  Counter to the White House position it asked the Government Accounting Office as noted in their November 2017 report, “o assess DOD’s actions to adapt overseas infrastructure to effects of climate change. It found the DOD efforts wanting. The GAO surveyed overseas installations on their vulnerability tub the approach used to gather survey data on the impacts that cause these risks was incomplete and not comprehensive by not including key national security sites. As a result, DOD did not obtain critical information on risks posed by weather effects associated with climate change at many of these installations.

The integration of climate change issues into planning and design and training has been inconsistently applied and so the staff does not have the information needed to ensure that climate change-related risks are addressed in installation plans and project designs. In addition, cost sharing efforts with host nations generally did not include climate change adaptation. But without financial support to fill the gaps the DOD is wide open to future climate change risks.


Louisiana is considering more draconian measures. Areas of the state are not only subject to sea rise but soil subsidence as well, due to much earlier mismanagement of the river.  . As explained on a PBS 2012 special “Why Louisiana is Sinking”   Torbjörn Törnqvist, a coastal geoscientist at Tulane University said “man-made levees, diversions along the Mississippi River made to control flooding and oil drilling along the coast have contributed to rapid subsidence, sinking the marshlands without new silt to replace it.

In a December 22, 2017 article Bloomberg reports that the state is in in the process of developing a multi-prong plan of buyouts of people who live there now, prohibiting new development and tax hikes by removing the homesteader tax deduction for an area on the Gulf larger than the State of Delaware. Existing commercial properties could stay but owners and developers would need to put up bonds to pay for those buildings’ eventual demolition.

The program is being funded by the federal government as part of a broad soil erosion control objective the subsidence component of which is caused in part by the soil and gas industry. Resettlement and buyout would cost billions of dollars. The initial federal grant is $40 million.

Community outreach programs were recently completed. There is thought that the co-operative structure of this effort could be a template for other coastal areas.

Look for part 2 in two weeks.