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Global Warming and Climate Change

Human activity is contributing to global climate change, which will have increasingly significant impacts on California and its coastal environments and communities. On this page you'll find information useful for coastal development applicants, local governments, and the general public. This website will be updated on an ongoing basis; please email with your comments, questions, or suggestions.

King tides view from Pacifica Pier, by Jack Sutton
View from Pacifica Pier during king tide. Photo © Jack Sutton


  • Sunset Beach during king tide, by Orange County Coastkeeper
    Sunset Beach during king tide, by OC Coastkeeper
    The California Coastal Commission Announces the Release of Draft Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance
    Commission staff is now seeking input from the public on the proposed Draft Sea-level Rise Policy Guidance. For more information, visit:
  • Local Coastal Program Sea-Level Rise Adaptation Grant Announcement Program:
    The Ocean Protection Council, California Coastal Commission and State Coastal Conservancy announce the availability of grants to encourage local governments and other entities responsible for planning under the California Coastal Act to develop and adopt updated plans that conserve and protect coastal resources from future impacts from sea-level rise and related climate change impacts such as extreme weather events.

    Applications are due July 15, 2013. We expect to award grants in the fall of 2013. Applications must be emailed (or postmarked) by the submission date. The full announcement is available here. The grant application form is available here.
  • Photographing king tide at Sutro Bath, San Francisco, by Ted Schulze
    Photographing king tide at Sutro Bath, San Francisco
    by Ted Schulze
    California King Tides Initiative Highlights Report released:
    The California King Tides Initiative Highlights Report provides an overview of the successes of the campaign from the 2011-2012 season, while highlighting by region some of the most impactful images from along the California coast during King Tide events. The report also tells of the story and involvement of five initiative participants and provides examples of sea-level rise planning efforts in CA.

Why is the Coastal Commission concerned about Climate Change?

Human activity is contributing to global climate change, which will have increasingly significant impacts on California and its coastal environments and communities. The Coastal Act mandates the California Coastal Commission to “protect, conserve, restore, and enhance” the state’s coastal resources. As a result, the Commission must consider climate change, including global warming and potential sea level rise, through its planning, regulatory, and educational activities, and work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the detrimental impacts of global warming on our coast.

More information on the Commission’s legal authorities to address climate change...

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Related Coastal Commission Presentations and Documents

A workshop on sea level rise was presented at the April 2009 meeting of the California Coastal Commission. Presentations were made by Philip Williams and Associates and the Pacific Institute:

California Coastal Commission Climate Research Needs White Paper, September 2008

At the December 2008 California Coastal Commission meeting, a briefing was presented on the Commission's involvement in climate change and global warming issues. In December 2006, the California Coastal Commission held its first Global Warming Workshop. View the following documents from the meeting:

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What are the potential issues and impacts related to global warming and climate change along the California Coast?

Please see the links below for more information on the following subjects and their importance to the discussion of climate change in California.

Overtopping Embarcadero, San Francisco, during king tide, Photo by Mike Filippoff
Overtopping Embarcadero, San Francisco, during king tide. Photo by Mike Filippoff

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What is being done now in California to address potential impacts of climate change?

California Statewide Efforts:

The State of California is a leader when it comes to preparing for impacts from climate change. Some recent statewide efforts include:

Sunset, Nick's Cove, Tomales Bay. Photo © Kirke Wrench
Sunset, Nick's Cove, Tomales Bay
Photo © Kirke Wrench
  • National Academy of Sciences West Coast Sea Level Rise Report (June 2012): The State of California contracted with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an assessment of sea level rise in California for the years 2030, 2050, and 2100. The report provides updated regional sea level rise projections for 2030, 2050, and 2100 based on the best available global sea level rise science and local conditions that influence sea level. According to the report, sea level in California could rise, on average, 6 inches by 2030, 11 inches by 2050, and 3 feet by 2100.
  • Governor's Impacts and Adaptation Local Government Conference (April 2012): The Governor's Office of Policy and Management hosted a conference for local governments on climate change impacts, current local government actions, and resources available to help local governments prepare for impacts. Visit the website for conference materials and proceedings.
  • Governor's Climate Change Conference on Extreme Climate Risks and California's Future (December 2011): Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. and environmental, business and public health and safety leaders came together to discuss ways to prepare and protect California from threats of unpredictable and extreme weather events.
  • Cal-Adapt (2011): California Natural Resources Agency and California Energy Commission released an interactive website that allows users to visualize climate change impacts at the local level, download climate change data, and participate in community sharing.
  • State of California Sea Level Rise Interim Guidance Document (2010): The Guidance Document provides a recommended approach for state agencies to address sea level rise in planning and decision making. Sixteen state agencies, including the California Coastal Commission, worked together to develop the approach.
  • State Adaptation Strategy (2009): In 2009, the State of California adopted the Adaptation Strategy, which was a collaborative effort across state agencies and relevant stakeholders. The Strategy summarizes climate change impacts and adaptation strategies across seven sectors: Public Health, Biodiversity and Habitat, Oceans and Coastal Resources, Water, Agriculture, Forestry, and Transportation and Energy.

California Climate Change Legislation:

The California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (AB 32) establishes a ground-breaking, comprehensive program of regulatory and market mechanisms to achieve quantifiable, cost-effective reductions of greenhouse gases. The act makes the Air Resources Board responsible for monitoring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. For information on AB 32, download a factsheet and visit these sites for more information:

In 2008, the California legislation passed SB 375, Addressing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Transportation Sector via Regional Transportation Plans. Find out more about SB 375.

California Coastal Commission Efforts to Address Climate Change

The California Coastal Commission is assisting the Resources Agency to accomplish the goals of AB 32. In its day-to-day work, the Commission looks at coastal development projects on a case-by-case basis in an effort to reduce emissions and prepare for potential impacts. A special task force of Commission staff meets regularly to investigate and discuss climate change issues and planning related to topics including green building, local governments and local coastal programs (LCPs), smart growth, public education and information, interagency coordination, adaptation to climate change impacts, carbon footprint scoring systems, carbon offsets, cap and trade, and carbon sequestration.

The Coastal Commission has implemented a new fee structure for Coastal Development Permits that provides for fee reductions for "green building." Find out more about this opportunity to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your development.

Local Government Efforts:

Local governments have the opportunity to take aggressive action to reduce global warming.

Mill Valley during king tide, photo by Yanna B.
Mill Valley during king tide. Photo by Yanna B.

Some examples of local government actions and resources include:

Other State and Federal Efforts:

The Coastal Commission is one of three state agencies that administer the federally-approved California Coastal Management Program (CCMP), the others being the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission and the California State Coastal Conservancy. The CCMP incorporates many of the Coastal Commission’s authorities under the California Coastal Act, including responsibility for comprehensive management of coastal resources, using planning, permitting, enforcement, and non-regulatory mechanisms and relying on cooperation between federal, state, and local agencies. As one of 34 federally-approved coastal management programs, the California Coastal Commission is a member of the Coastal States Organization and a participant on various CSO subcommittees, including the CSO Climate Change Work Group, which has compiled a report about the challenges coastal managers face in adapting to the impacts of climate change. Read the Final Report of the CSO Climate Change Work Group.

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What should I do?


There are many things that individuals can do to reduce their contribution to global warming. A few websites which have compiled specific tips on how to help include the following. (These links have not necessarily been endorsed by the Coastal Commission. Visit our How can I learn more section for links to additional organizations.)

Permit Applicants:

The Coastal Commission is developing specific guidelines for dealing with potential climate change impacts for Coastal Development Applicants. As information becomes available, it will be posted here. In the mean time, you are encouraged to make every effort to Reduce Your Project's Contribution to Global Warming with regard to aspects including whole project energy use, water use, vehicle miles traveled, and paved area. In particular, consider taking advantage of the Coastal Commission's new fee reductions for "green building." Find out more about this opportunity to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of your development.

Local Governments:

As specific climate change guidance for local governments in the coastal zone becomes available, it will be referenced here. In the mean time, please visit our Resources for Local Governments website, the Issues and Impacts section of this webpage, and the following sites:

Surfer, Huntington Beach Pier. Photo © Jim Kresge
Surfer, Huntington Beach Pier
Photo © Jim Kresge

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How can I learn more about global warming and climate change?

There are many websites devoted to climate change. Below are a few links where you can learn more. This is not a comprehensive list, and these sites have not necessarily been endorsed by the California Coastal Commission.

Government Sites   |  Non-Government Sites   |  Sites for Teachers, Parents, and Students

Government Sources:

Starfish and Hydrocorals, Santa Catalina Island. Photo © Christopher Bradford
Starfish and Hydrocorals, Santa Catalina Island
Photo © Christopher Bradford
Non-Government Sources:

The California Coastal Commission has not necessarily endorsed these sites.

Sites aimed at teachers, parents, and students:

The California Coastal Commission has not necessarily endorsed these sites.

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Page last updated June 4, 2013