Coastal Adaptation Publications

Coastal Adaptation Planning > Coastal Adaptation Publications

Assessing the Geographic Variability in Vulnerability to Climate Change and Coastal Hazards in Los Angeles County, California

Fleming, C.S., S.D. Regan, A. Freitag, and H. Burkart. 2020. Assessing the Geographic Variability in Vulnerability to Climate Change and Coastal Hazards in Los Angeles County, California. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 275. Silver Spring, MD. 172 pp. DOI: 10.25923/mgca-hc06

Abstract: This report presents background, methodology, and findings from the third application of the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science’s (NCCOS) Integrated Vulnerability Assessment Framework. Building upon previous work done in the Chesapeake Bay, the Framework was applied in Los Angeles (L.A.) County, California. The overarching goals of the project were to: 1) provide partners with the ability to more easily understand the complexities of overall vulnerability and risk within their region, thereby leading to informed management action; and 2) expand upon previous iterations of the Framework in a new geography with variability in demographics, ecology, and climate concerns. 

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An economic evaluation of adaptation pathways in coastal mega cities: An illustration for Los Angeles

: Ruig, L. T., Barnard, P. L., Botzen, W., Grifman, P., Hart, J. F., Moel, H., Sadrpour, N. and Aerts, J. C. (2019), An economic evaluation of adaptation pathways in coastal mega cities: An illustration for Los Angeles. Sci Total Environ., 678:647-659. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.04.308

Abstract: Sea level rise and uncertainty in its projections pose a major challenge to flood risk management and adaptation investments in coastal mega cities. This study presents a comparative economic evaluation method for flood adaptation measures, which couples a cost-benefit analysis with the concept of adaptation pathways. Our approach accounts for uncertainty in sea level rise projections by allowing for flexibility of adaptation strategies over time. Our method is illustrated for Los Angeles County which is vulnerable to flooding and sea level rise. Results for different sea level rise scenarios show that applying adaptation pathways can result in higher economic efficiency (up to 10%) than individual adaptation strategies, despite the loss of efficiency at the initial strategy. However, we identified 'investment tipping points', after which a transition could decrease the economic efficiencies of a pathway significantly. Overall, we recommend that studies evaluating adaptation strategies should integrate cost-benefit analysis frameworks with adaptation pathways since this allows for better informing decision makers about the robustness and economic desirability of their investment choices.

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Pathways to resilience: adapting to sea level rise in Los Angeles

Aerts, J. C., Barnard, P. L., Botzen, W. , Grifman, P. , Hart, J. F., Moel, H. , Mann, A. N., Ruig, L. T. and Sadrpour, N. (2018), Pathways to resilience: adapting to sea level rise in Los Angeles. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1427: 1-90. doi:10.1111/nyas.13917

Abstract: Los Angeles (LA) County's coastal areas are highly valued for their natural benefits and their economic contributions to the region. While LA County already has a high level of exposure to flooding (e.g. people, ports, and harbors), climate change and sea level rise will increase flood risk; anticipating this risk requires adaptation planning to mitigate social, economic, and physical damage. This study provides an overview of the potential effects of sea level rise on coastal LA County and describes adaptation pathways and estimates associated costs in order to cope with sea level rise. An adaptation pathway in this study is defined as the collection of measures (e.g., beach nourishment, dune restoration, flood‐proofing buildings, and levees) required to lower flood risk. The aim of using different adaptation pathways is to enable a transition from one methodology to another over time. These pathways address uncertainty in future projections, allowing for flexibility among policies and potentially spreading the costs over time. Maintaining beaches, dunes, and their natural dynamics is the foundation of each of the three adaptation pathways, which address the importance of beaches for recreation, environmental value, and flood protection. In some scenarios, owing to high projections of sea level rise, additional technical engineering options such as levees and sluices may be needed to reduce flood risk. The research suggests three adaptation pathways, anticipating a +1 ft (0.3 m) to +7 ft (+2 m) sea level rise by year 2100. Total adaptation costs vary between $4.3 and $6.4 bn, depending on measures included in the adaptation pathway.

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Growing Effort, Growing Challenge: Findings from the 2016 California Coastal Adaptation Needs Assessment

Moser, Susanne C. (Susanne Moser Research & Consulting), Finzi Hart, Juliette A. (USGS), Newton Mann, Alyssa G. (formerly University of Southern California Sea Grant, currently The Nature Conservancy), Sadrpour, Nick, and Grifman, Phyllis M. (University of Southern California Sea Grant) 2018. Growing Effort, Growing Challenge: Findings from the 2016 CA Coastal Adaptation Needs Assessment Survey. California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment, California Natural Resources Agency.

Abstract: The third coastal adaptation needs assessment, administered in 2016, provides a snapshot of the current state of coastal adaptation in California, and constitutes a longitudinal assessment of the changing needs of coastal professionals since 2006. The only comprehensive, longitudinal assessment of adaptation in the country, the study aimed to (1) understand the state and context of coastal adaptation and understand how to move it forward; (2) identify information, training, technical assistance, financial and other support needs; and in so doing, (3) assess what difference past technical and financial assistance have made in advancing coastal adaptation. An extensive survey instrument was administered in the summer and fall of 2016. The target populations were local, regional, state, federal, private sector, and NGO professionals involved in coastal management and adaptation (total survey population was more than 2,700). The response rate and survey population are very similar to the previous survey population engaged in 2011, enabling a statewide comparison. Results are summarized in four parts: (1) current coastal management challenges; (2) attitudes toward climate change and adaptation motivations, actions, barriers, expenditures and needs; (3) information, technical support and training needs to further advance adaptation; and (4) demographics of the survey participants. Moreover, in most instances they analyzed by different respondent groups and by region. The overarching finding is that sea-level rise has become the leading present-day coastal management concern and coastal adaptation is further advanced now compared to 2011 across California, but coastal professionals continue to face significant hurdles in moving from understanding coastal risks to planning and implementing actions. Learn more about this project and view report highlights HERE.

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The Stakes are Rising: Lessons on Engaging Coastal Communities on Climate Adaptation in Southern California

Newton Mann, A.G., P. Grifman, J.F. Hart. (2017) The Stakes are Rising: Lessons on Engaging Coastal Communities on Climate Adaptation in Southern California. Cities and the Environment Journal (CATE), Digital Commons @ Loyola Marymount University and Loyola Law School.

Abstract: Preparing for climate change is rising as a priority for many public policy agendas, driving a demand for information that allows communities to identify both current and projected vulnerabilities to climate change at local and regional levels. In response, a developing climate change adaptation service sector is bringing science and technical training to policy-makers. Approaching adaptation planning through a regional lens is critical, due to the large number of stakeholders and the intensely interconnected nature of geographies, communities, and economies. Decisions made in one jurisdiction will undoubtedly affect its neighbors.
In this emerging field, boundary organizations play a unique role in building capacity across jurisdictions and bridging the gaps among various community, science and government stakeholders. The University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant Program, located in Los Angeles, has developed a robust stakeholder engagement process to help communities plan for the impacts of climate change along the urbanized coastline. In 2016, USC Sea Grant analyzed its climate change adaptation outreach program to gain insights about its effectiveness. Drawing from this analysis, this paper explores: 1) stakeholder processes; 2) communications methods, particularly the challenges of communicating scientific information; 3) barriers to planning and implementation; 4) how to identify community needs; and, 5) what kinds of investments have been made to meet those needs.
Four primary lessons are identified: 1) place-based boundary organizations can be an effective broker in establishing trust among stakeholders; 2) the ever-evolving and complex nature of climate science can overwhelm stakeholders and stall progress, so it is important to emphasize key messages provided by the scientific information, rather than dive deep into technical details and methods; 3) adaptive management is a promising approach to help communities move forward; and, 4) lack of significant and sustained funding for adaptation will continue to limit progress, however, even modest investments made at the right time can be impactful. Finally, the paper discusses the challenges USC Sea Grant faced in the first six years of its climate adaptation outreach program, and provides thoughts on how to help communities continue to advance their adaptation planning goals in the years to come.

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Regional AdaptLA Executive Summary and Technical Report: Results from the Local Coastal Program Sea Level Rise Grant Program

Regional AdaptLA: Coastal Impacts Planning in the Los Angeles Region is a multi-year project to provide information on the potential impacts of sea level rise to local coastal jurisdictions. In the process, a community of practice on coastal planning is developing in the Los Angeles (L.A.) coastal region. Two science-based projects, developed by the TerraCosta Consulting Group (TCG) and Environmental Science Associates (ESA), modeled shoreline change, coastal erosion and coastal retreat under projected future climate scenarios for the Los Angeles County coast. The University of Southern California (USC) Sea Grant Program has developed this synthesis of the two Regional AdaptLA modeling projects for the benefit of the Regional AdaptLA coalition and stakeholder community. This Executive Summary provides background on the overall project, overviews of the methodologies used to conduct the scientific studies, a summary of major findings, and recommendations for how information provided in these studies can help inform local coastal adaptation planning efforts. This document provides a “bridge” between the technical work by ESA and TCG and the AdaptLA coalition. USC Sea Grant provides capacity building and technical assistance for local jurisdictions as well as coordination among stakeholders and critical government agencies.   For more information, including shapefiles and a webtool to view model results, visit USC Sea Grant’s Regional AdaptLA webpage: 

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Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Study for the City of Los Angeles

 Grifman, P. M., J. F. Hart, J. Ladwig, A. G. Newton Mann, M. Schulhof. (2013) Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Study for the City of Los Angeles. USCSG-TR-05-2013.

Abstract: The City of Los Angeles (City of L.A. or the City) has initiated research to support planning for the impacts of climate change. The City, the University of Southern California Sea Grant Program (USC Sea Grant) and project partners developed a science-based and stakeholder-supported adaptation planning process to support research on the impacts of sea level rise on City assets, resources and communities. As a first step, this report, Sea Level Rise Vulnerability Report for the City of Los Angeles, is a summary of initial research on the potential impacts of sea level rise and associated flooding from storms for coastal communities in the City of L.A. The study concentrates on the City’s three coastal regions: Pacific Palisades from Malibu to Santa Monica; Venice and Playa del Rey; and San Pedro, Wilmington and the Port of Los Angeles. An interdisciplinary team of world-renowned experts was engaged to identify the City’s potential exposure to sea level rise. A sophisticated model, developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), was used to examine the impacts from rising seas, as well as flood impacts from storms and high tides that could be exacerbated with those rising sea levels. The model is based on an El Nino-fueled storm that occurred in the Los Angeles region during January 2010, considered a moderately severe “10-year” storm (10% chance of occurring annually). As new data become available for the L.A. region, they can be applied to evaluate impacts of more severe storms, such as a 100-year event (1% chance of occurring annually). In this study, we provide an initial report by Dr. Reinhard Flick focused on coastal vulnerabilities in locales within City boundaries, and provide recommendations for beach monitoring programs. We then highlight the findings of three vulnerability assessments that provide a preliminary examination of the physical, social, and economic impacts of sea level rise on the City’s coastal assets, resources and communities, and include a summary discussion of ecological vulnerability at Ballona Wetlands. One of the next steps for the City will be to develop an Adaptation Plan. We help get this process started with a matrix of available adaptation measures the City can consider in planning for sea level rise as well as recommendations for moving forward with adaptation planning. 

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California Climate Change Adaptation Needs Assessment Survey

Finzi Hart, J. A., P. M. Grifman, S. C. Moser, A. Abeles, M. R. Myers, S. C. Schlosser, J. A. Ekstrom (2012) Rising to the Challenge: Results of the 2011 Coastal California Adaptation Needs Assessment. USCSG-TR-01-2012. 

Description: Decision-makers in California's (CA) coastal counties generally recognize that climate change will impact their communities and coastline. Yet, coastal CA communities are at different stages in developing and/or implementing climate change adaptation plans. In order to more precisely identify community needs, USC Sea Grant led an effort, in partnership with 15 CA organizations, to survey coastal professionals. The goal of the survey was to understand the needs and barriers coastal communities have in planning for climate change, develop appropriate trainings and technical assistance for communities, and determine the best way to link communities to resources and tools already available. 

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