The effects of a flood event, combined with sea level rise at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, could have a crippling effect on the transportation of goods around the country. Currently, more than $100 billion worth of cargo moves through the Port of Long Beach every year, and three feet in sea level rise would put several roads and petroleum storage facilities under water. It is a potential catastrophe, and not just an economic one.

Three feet of sea level rise would cause about 90% of Naples Island, the Peninsula, and Belmont Shore communities in Long Beach to go underwater. All low-lying coastal cities are vulnerable and to see what your coastal community might look like with different levels of sea level risen; the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) interactive map shows which areas are vulnerable to these changes.

The long term effect of sea level rise will most likely cause displacement and disinvestment in these vulnerable areas. What globalization did to Detroit and industrial towns throughout the United States could predict what effect sea level rise will have on low-lying coastal cities. The speed at which a coastal diaspora happens will depend on continuing insurability of private property and, of course, the weather. Landscape architects can help by understanding and promoting landscape based strategies to help mitigate the effects of sea level rise (construction of barrier islands, increasing kelp forests, flood adapted infrastructure, or the conversion of formerly developed land) and by participating in policy making, planning, infrastructure design, and innovative construction practices.

I highly recommend checking out the Annenberg Space for Photography’s exhibit “Sink or Swim: Designing for Sea Change”, an exhibiting focusing upon the resiliency and vulnerability of our species, and the urgent need to put our collective minds together to help mitigate the effects of our changing climate.


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