Venice Beach could lose hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism spending and structural damages due to a rise in sea levels over the remainder of the century, a new state-commissioned study has found.

Conducted by economists at San Francisco State University, the study analyzed Venice and four other California coastal communities – Malibu; Ocean Beach in San Francisco; Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County; and Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego County – predicting that each could face significant economic losses as a result of sea level rise.

“The Economic Costs of Sea-Level Rise to California Beach Communities” study, funded by the California Department of Boating and Waterways, examines the cost of coastal storm damage and erosion, both of which are expected to increase as sea levels rise. In addition, the analysis forecasts the economic impact of sea level rise on tourism and natural habitats.

According to the study, with a rise in sea levels by 4.6 feet between now and 2100 – a projection specific to the California coast, based on recent scientific studies – Venice Beach could lose nearly $440 million in tourism revenue and tax revenue losses. The beachside community could also lose $51.6 million in structural damages caused by a 100-year flood and another $38.6 million in habitat and recreation losses caused by beach erosion, the study finds.

Coastal areas like San Francisco’s Ocean Beach could lose up to $540 million in damages due to accelerated erosion, according to the study.

“Sea level rise will send reverberations throughout local and state economies,” said Philip King, associate professor of economics at San Francisco State University. “We also found that the economic risks and responses to a changing coastline will vary greatly over time and from beach to beach.”

Factors that impact the cost and type of damage from rising sea levels include a community’s economy, geography and local decisions about land use, the study states.

The study’s authors say they hope the findings will influence communities’ planning efforts to evaluate and respond to sea level rise.

“Understanding the kind of impact sea level rise will have is important for deciding what adaptive action to take,” King said. “Seawalls have become the de facto policy for dealing with erosion and sea level rise but our findings suggest that other policies such as beach nourishment or where possible, allowing the coastline to retreat, could be more cost effective.”

King and colleagues said they conducted their analysis primarily using secondary data, an approach which allowed them to calculate the economic impact of sea level rise at a fraction of the cost and time taken to complete the more commonly used shoreline hazard assessments.

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