ENCINITAS — The erosive powers of both nature and man meet at the coastline.
Not just erosion, but policy and planning, should shape the shores of San Diego County moving forward.
To continue that future-looking process in public, Encinitas City Hall hosted a workshop on sea-level rise featuring six guest speakers on May 8.
Current research predicts an acceleration in sea-level rise around 2050 or 2060 that could have far-reaching effects on the coast and its inhabitants. There are varying estimates, but studies predict a rise of about 1 to 2 feet by 2050 and 3 to 6.5 feet by 2100.
Higher sea level could result in increased erosion of beaches and bluffs, sewer spills, soil contamination, structure damage and more. Flooding is expected to come from both erratic rainstorms that could breach lagoon shores and powerful storm surges generated at sea. The combination could be disastrous, with coastal roads and structures overrun with water and rendered inaccessible.
Encinitas and other coastal municipalities need to identify what they will do to mitigate these impacts and adapt to environmental change as they look toward the next 30 years and beyond. “There’s a moment to take a breath now, but there will be a moment when we’ll have to act,” said workshop presenter Laura Engemen. She is the Program Director at the Center for Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Crystal Najera, Climate Action Plan Program Administrator for Encinitas, explained at the workshop how sea-level rise can be attributed to two main factors: the melting polar-ice caps and other ice sheets as well as increasing sea temperatures. When water is heated, it expands, causing an increase in volume or a “rise.”
The increased heat comes, in large part, from the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, most commonly emitted by burning fossil fuels like oil, natural gas and coal. Humans could potentially reduce the degree of sea-level rise and its associated effects if we decrease our greenhouse gas emissions, but there are a lot of unknowns.
What should Encinitas do to prepare for an increasing sea level and the flooding and erosion it could bring? What are the expected financial impacts? Does sand nourishment (adding sand to beaches) work and for how long?
The Coast News will delve further into these questions next week.