At the Yosemite conference this past weekend, I moderated a panel with California Natural Resources Agency Secretary John Laird. The topic was greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2030, and Secretary Laird spoke about the likely risks California faces from climate change. He said that in the agency’s recent report on climate impacts, they settled on a median scientific estimate of a five-foot sea level rise by 2100 (see the PDF report). That’s median — so the result could either be much worse or (hopefully) less severe.
Threatened by this sea level rise are 20 existing coastal power plants, 80 substations, natural gas pipelines, and the levees that form the crucial connection in our north-south water infrastructure. Not to mention hundreds of millions of dollars — if not more — in coastal property. It’s worth remembering these costs when we hear critics discuss the costs of prevention, such as relatively tiny increases in gas or electricity prices.
Jon Stewart and the Daily Show seems to have the best summary of the dynamics, complete with an optometry exam for climate change deniers on sea level rise: