The destruction caused by coastal storms in Malibu and its neighboring communities along the Pacific coast is anticipated to increase as ocean levels rise throughout the 21st century, according to a recent study by the City of Los Angeles and USC.
"The next step is crafting policies that reduce risk and protect the public today," Jonathan Parfrey, the executive director of Climate Resolve, an LA-based nonprofit that works with the government to help prepare for climate change, told the LA Times.
The results of the study highlight a need for investment in protecting coastal areas from storm damage, which will be crucial for the continuing prosperity of local communities.
One major risk Malibu faces in the coming decades will be Pacific Coast Highway. Even at current ocean levels, severe storms can breach the highway, causing dangerous driving conditions and traffic jams, as well as blocking emergency vehicles. With the sea rising, the study predicts, even moderate storms could cause massive damage to the delicate roadway, possibly endangering lives – especially as the PCH is a key evacuation route for many Malibu residents.
In addition, the Pacific Coast Highway serves as a major route for tourists to come in and out of Malibu. However, without careful precautions, Malibu’s famous beaches could quickly become a thing of memory, the study found. The authors of the study suggest some solutions that could keep the tourist industry here in Malibu, as well as preserve the beaches for local residents to enjoy, including the construction of groins, jetties and breakwaters.
It does appear, however, that Malibu is ahead of the curve when it comes to coastal protection. Rocks have been brought in as armoring to protect the roadway from destructive high tides help protect the coast, the study said, and serve as an example of an adaptation strategy that could be implemented in other areas of the coast.
Secondly, the proposed project to replenish the sand at Broad Beach could make Malibu a leader amongst local communities in preserving its natural landscape. On top of the aesthetic and economic benefits of preserving local beaches, they can serve as crucial buffers to high waves. With many residents living along the water, preserving beaches could pay off in the future.
While work to slow global warming continues, researchers and policymakers are now turning toward adaptation and protection in the face of climate change.
The report, published in December, collected data from coastal regions surrounding Los Angeles, from as far north as the LA County Line down to LA Harbor and Port Los Angeles. Amongst its chief concerns were utilities and transportation infrastructure, beaches and the water supply. The scientists then used computer simulation to predict what effect the projected levels of rising water in the coming decades could have on these critical resources.