2016 California Climate Adaptation Needs Assessment Survey

Focus Areas > Climate Change > 2016 California Climate Change Adaptation Assessment Survey

Study Results

Released August 27, 2018

  • Growing Effort, Growing Challenge: Findings from the 2016 California Coastal Adaptation Needs Assessment (PDF)
  • Highlights from the 2016 California Coastal Adaptation Needs Assessment (PDF)

The study, Growing Effort, Growing Challenge: Findings from the 2016 California Coastal Adaptation Needs Assessment, was released as part of California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment in 2018 and provides a snapshot of the current state of coastal adaptation across California. The study was conducted by USC Sea Grant, U.S. Geological Survey, and Susanne Moser Consulting and the results provide insight across 10 years of shifting climate change and adaptation challenges, attitudes, barriers, actions, and training and funding needs in coastal California. 

Sea-level rise has emerged as the dominant present-day coastal management concern across California. This is a notable shift among all types of survey respondents compared to 2011 survey results, when sea-level rise was mostly seen as a future coastal management challenge. 

2016 survey results also reveal that progress, barriers, and needs vary across regions. For example, sea-level change ranks as the highest concern in Northern California and the Bay Area; coastal and shoreline erosion is of greatest concern along the Central and San Diego coasts; and water quality concerns are seen as the greatest current challenge in Southern California.

There is also a notable shift in information needs: while coastal professionals’ dominant information needs focused on becoming more familiar with sea-level rise-related risks in 2011, the greatest needs now are options for solutions and how to implement them. 

Highlights and the full study are avialable as PDFs above. Read the press release, here.

Project Overview
  • Project Timing: 2016 - 2018

How are California's coastal communities meeting the challenge of planning for rising seas? 

A survey of nearly 700 coastal professionals was conducted during the summer of 2016 to assess how they are preparing for the impacts of climate change. What challenges do they face? What information, technical training, and science is needed? Results will help the state determine where more guidance, financial resources, and science resources are needed to help them effectively invest funds. Results will also help USC Sea Grant, and partner organizations, fine tune how to best work with communities to advance adaptation planning.

In 2017 the authors completed the analysis and first draft of the study. The study underwent peer review as part of the State of California Fourth Climate Change Assessment, which is led by the California Natural Resources Agency and provides a statewide update to climate change science; the report was released August 27, 2018.

This survey is an update to the 2011 Coastal Climate Adaptation Needs Assessment, administered by many of the same partners. That survey helped the partners on this project and state agencies improve their resources and was cited by the Ocean Protection Council as one of the reasons for initiating funding for assessing sea-level rise vulnerabilities in coastal communities. 

For more information, please contact Nick Sadrpour | 213.740.1937


The flooding and erosion impacts of sea level rise and coastal storms put billions of dollars of public and private assets at risk in California. Risks include flooding and damage to coastal infrastructure such as roads, water treatment facilities, and power plants. The social vulnerability of people who cannot adapt to changes in many communities is also a rising concern.  

The 2016 California Climate Change Adaptation Assessment is the third in a series of surveys that show the evolution of adaptation planning needs and progress in California.  The first survey was conducted by Dr. Susi Moser in 2006/2006 while at NCAR. The second survey was led by Dr. Moser, USC Sea Grant and a suite of 15 coastal partners (all partners listed on 2011 survey project page). 

Key findings from the 2011 survey revealed levels of knowledge and concern about climate change impacts, challenges faced in adaptation planning, and information and training needed to support adaptation planning and implementation. The results spurred an infusion of state funding (grants from OPC, Coastal Conservancy, and Coastal Commission) in adaptation planning at municipal levels. In response, USC Sea Grant now leads several efforts to advance adaptation planning in Southern California, including Regional AdaptLA and the Southern California Coastal Impacts Project.

Professionals from communities along California’s open ocean, bay, delta, and estuarine coastlines; as well as regional, state and federal government agencies, and civic and private sectors are participating in the current survey.

USC Sea Grant, Dr. Moser, Laura Engeman (San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative) and Vijay Kasevan (Bay Area Regional Collaborative) will present initial 2016 survey findings at the California Adaptation Forum September 7-8 in Long Beach. Results will also be reported to California Ocean Protection Council and other state agencies.

Photos: Top - Flooding from a king tide in La Jolla Shores in January 2016 (credit: Sarah Giddings); Bottom - Erosion along PCH in Malibu from a king tide in January 2016 (credit: Kurt Holland).


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