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Climate Change



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California Environmental Health Tracking Program

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Last Edited: 4/15/2014

Sea Level Rise and Climate Change

Sea level is expected to rise in the coming decades as a result of melting of mountain glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets.  As water temperatures increase with global temperature increases, ocean water will naturally expand, compounding the issue.  Over time, sea levels will encroach on land that is home to families, businesses, and communities.  It is estimated that a 5-foot increase in sea level would put nearly half a million Californians at risk of losing their homes to flooding.1

 

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How does climate change affect sea levels?

As global temperatures rise, melting glaciers and ice caps will cause sea levels to rise worldwide.  As water temperatures increase with global temperature increases, ocean water will naturally expand, compounding the issue.  California is particularly vulnerable to impacts from sea level rise. 

  • According to California’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER), California includes more than 2,000 miles of coastlines and bays vulnerable to storms, high tides, and flooding caused by rising sea levels.
  • Sea level rise poses a major threat to Californians who live near the coast.

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How does sea level rise impact health?

A study on sea level rise in California reported that by the year 2100, sea levels along the California coast will rise between 1-1.4 meters.1  This puts coastal and low-lying inland communities at risk of losing their homes and becoming displaced.  In addition, sea level rise may corrupt the existing clean drinking water infrastructure for many communities throughout California.

 

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Who will be most affected?

  • Those who live near coastal waters or rivers and streams
  • Low-income communities or those vulnerable to disasters who:
    • often have lower access to private vehicles
    • may not speak English
    • often live near hazardous waste facilities

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Resources on climate change and sea level rise

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1. Cayan et al. 2009. Climate change scenarios and sea level rise estimates for the California 2009 climate change scenarios assessment. Final Report #CEC-500-2009-014-F. Sacramento, CA: California Climate Change Resource Center.