Guest essay by Larry Hamlin
On August 23, 2023, the L A Times published an article again promoting climate alarmist propaganda that sea level rise along the California coast requires that the state resort to mandated relocation of coastal properties to protect future coastline outcomes from damage caused by increasing rising seas.
This most recent L A Times article regarding coastal sea level rise that supports the states confiscation of coastal properties repeats the theme of a prior L A Times article published nearly 4 years ago by the same reporter. Both theses L A Times articles are discussed below starting first with the article from 2019.
In a December 4, 2019, article in the L A Times titled “California must act now to prepare for sea level rise, state lawmakers say” reporter Rosanna Xia noted:
“Lawmakers have told cities they must start addressing climate adaptation in their planning but have otherwise shied away from issuing mandatory directions. The California Coastal Commission, through modest grants and some general guidance, has been encouraging local officials to consider “everything in the toolkit” — including the controversial option of relocating oceanfront properties and critical infrastructure away from the water — when updating city policies.”
A December 9, 2019 article at WUWT addressed (shown below) the following absurdities with this ridiculous Times supported state government mandated scheme as follows:
“The Los Angeles Times ran yet another scientifically unsupported climate alarmist sea level rise propaganda article supporting the position that government entities in the state need to mandate relocation of coastal properties away from the coast based upon speculation and conjecture derived from unvalidated and failed computer model outcomes of future sea level rise.
State government mandated relocation actions potentially involve politicians dictating control of homeowner and business property of tens of thousands of properties representing hundreds of billions of dollars in property value located along the 840-mile California coastline resulting in Draconian economic impacts being foisted upon these property owners as determined by the state’s climate alarmist government politicians.”
The WUWT article further noted many other misleading and erroneous problems with the information in the 2019 Times article as summarized in a few items highlighted below.
“The Times article falsely utilizes climate alarmist characterizations of California’s future sea level rise concerns as follows:
“The rising sea might feel like a slow-moving disaster, they said, but this is a social, economic, and environmental catastrophe that the state cannot afford to ignore. By the end of this century, the sea could rise more than 9 feet in California — possibly more if the great ice sheets collapse sooner than expected.”
“The California sea level report attempts to assign probabilities to the ranges of sea level rise calculated by computer models using the various UN IPCC AR 5 emissions scenarios by combining these speculative scenarios with the UN reports assessments by its alarmist writers of “level of confidence” and “assessed likelihood” qualifiers assigned to the reports outcomes.”
These UN report “confidence and likelihood” qualifiers are completely subjective and represent manufactured and fabricated assigned values that form the basis for the California report sea level rise “probabilities”.
Thus the California sea level rise report outcomes represent opinions based upon speculation and conjecture regarding future claims about California’s coastal sea level rise.”
“Additionally the Times article as always conceals and suppresses the more than 30 year failure of climate alarmist scientists claims of accelerating sea level rise made before Congress in 1988 where their computer models showed that sea level rise would increase by up to 4 feet by mid-century with this outcome completely unsupported by global tide gauge data that reflects no coastal sea level rise acceleration occurring during the last three decades.”
“The climate alarmist embarrassing failure demonstrated by extensive NOAA tide gauge data measurements that do NOT reflect acceleration of coastal sea level rise as hyped by failed climate alarmist computer models over the last more than 30 years is illustrated by the 120-yearlong tide gauge measurement sea level rise data recorded at San Francisco shown below with this long record of steady sea level rise of course unaddressed by the Times alarmist article.”
“The Times article mentions the usual idiotic assertion, as clearly displayed below, that California coastal sea level rise could increase by 9 to 10 feet by the end of the century based on pure speculative from computer models.” How any rational individual could evaluate the ridiculous 10-foot increase (shown in red below versus recorded and measured sea level rise data shown in blue) in sea level rise claim by year 2100 as being a feasible basis upon which to base coastal sea level rise policy is beyond absurd.
The primary sea level rise study document (Rising Seas in California shown above) relied upon by state that establishes the coastal sea level rise values are supposedly supported by “probability distribution” assessments which attempt to convey some degree of scientific certainty for these sea level rise future guesses.
The reality however is that these “probability distributions” contained in the Rising Seas study are nothing but subjective assessments as determined by the “experts” doing the analysis using their “expert elicitation”, “expert community assessment” and “process modeling” as noted in the reference contained in the state’s report as shown below.
“We provide complete probability distributions, informed by a combination of expert community assessment, expert elicitation, and process modeling.” This clearly establishes that outcomes of this analysis are impacted by multiple areas of uncertainty that challenge the validity of these analyses.
“Expert elicitation” is defined as being “The elicitation of scientific and technical judgments from experts, in the form of subjective probability distributions.” The Rising Seas in California document outcomes can appropriately be characterized as opinion-based guesses of future coastal sea level rise.
On August 22, 2023 the L A Times once again hyped their ridiculous claim that California must proceed with mandatory relocation of coastal properties to save the coastline for future generations because apparently present owners whether they be individuals, community organizations, environmental groups, businesses, cities, counties, other government organizations, etc. are not proceeding in ways that enhance the protection of coastlines for the future as hyped by the Times.
Seemingly only state government politicians can be trusted to do that through confiscation of coastal property and rights from the state’s inhabitants.
This idiotic scheme proposed by the Times is again addressed in the most recent article shown below.
The article proposes that only planned retreat can save the coastline noting:
“Then there’s what scientists and economists and number-crunching consultants call “managed retreat”: move back, relocate, essentially cede the land to nature. These words alone have roiled the few cities and state agencies bold enough to utter them.”
This latest L A Times article is a completely anecdotal “story” that provides no data or data related analysis to support its claims.
The article offers nothing that changes the data and data analysis provided in this essay’s prior assessments discussed above concerning the large uncertainty of future sea level rise “projections” as well as the complete failure of measured tide gauge sea level rise data to support the flawed and failed climate alarmist hype about accelerating sea level rise over the last 4 decades.
The latest Times article has many flaws in its approach and claims with some of those addressed below.
The article meanders through a strange menagerie of disjointed examples of coastal sea level situations that are supposed to support a case that the ability to manage coastal sea level rise is hopeless and that only state mandated coastal retreat remains viable.
Additionally, many of the articles examples seemingly mix considerations of coastal sea level rise and coastal erosion as being the same issue rather than being separate and distinct coastal phenomenon.
One primary example featured in the article looks at a storm damaged area of Capitola Beach, California (Times article photo above and below) and recent January storms that broke its wharf and flooded the sandbag protected condo areas as shown below as well as local coastal roads.
The article characterizes this example by noting the inadequacy of the sandbags and plywood in protecting the condos and the failure of the wharf and how expensive it would be to rebuild the wharf and protect the condos and other shore areas from future storms.
The “vanishing coastline” Times article failed to mention that the wharf was 166 years old and that the city had been proceeding with plans for rebuilding it because of its very old age and weathered condition. A life of 166 years for a coastline wharf simply does not meet the Times reporters engineering requirements.
The Times “vanishing coastline” article also characterized the January 2023 storms as “a series of record breaking storms” with a link to another L A Times article that discussed these “record” January storms.
This “record” storm article notes that an employee at Picnic Basket near the wharf said that in the 5 years she had lived there “she’s had never seen waves that large”. Apparently, that represents the basis for the Times “vanishing coastline” articles claim of “a series of record-breaking storms”.
This Times storm article also addressed Sonoma County storm damage from the January storms noting that:
“Guerneville will flood Friday, as it is now expected to peak in the morning at 26.2 feet, below the flood stage level of 32 feet.”
“The Hopland area of the Russian River had exceeded flood stage as of Thursday morning, said Brett Whitin, a hydrologist at the California Nevada River Forecast Center.
“It’s not as high as it was in the New Year’s Eve flood,” Whitin said. “It’s a lower-level type of flooding going on there.”
It appears these kinds of anecdotal storm stories constitute the basis for L A Times “vanishing coastline” articles claim of “a series of record-breaking storms” proclamation.
The Times “vanishing coastline” article also mentions damage at Seacliff State beach where ” an elaborate barricade built in 1926 was destroyed the very next winter and has since been rebuilt — and then damaged or destroyed — eight more times. The version in 1982 cost more than $1.5 million and lasted six weeks (it was designed to last 20 years). These cycles of wishful engineering and natural destruction have only continued to intensify.”
The article has a few other examples of coastal sea level rise storms all geared to supposedly show that we just can’t continue to deal with these situations in the future and concludes:
“All this engineering, all this sacrifice: How many times will we try to overcome a force as vast as the sea? People spend years fighting to maintain a wishful line in the sand, yet a few extra feet of water here or there is hardly a shrug for the ocean. When you look at the coast with wise enough eyes, you can almost see the high-water lines of floods and disasters past … lines foretelling the history we’re doomed to keep repeating, if we keep closing ourselves off to change.”
The articles phrase “keep closing ourselves off to change” of course means mandating coastal retreat.
This L A Times “vanishing coastline” article is incredibly deficient in its basic approach toward dealing with a subject that encompasses the entire California coastline and that is as technically complex and economically important to the state as addressing its coastline sea level and erosion challenges.
The articles hodgepodge approach of using examples of a few sea level rise, storm and coastal erosion occurrences in an attempt to support the state’s confiscation of thousands of organizations and individuals property and property rights is monumentally incompetent, arrogant and absurd.
The L A Times claims of “record storms” along California’s coast is typical of flawed climate alarmist propaganda hype of “storms” becoming more severe because of “climate change” are unsupported by NOAA storm data regarding the most powerful storms occurring in the Northeast Pacific Ocean which is defined as the region of the Pacific above the equator and east of the 180-degree longitude line. Storms in this ocean region are the most powerful that will potentially impact the coast of California and other areas of the Western U.S.
The three graphs below provide tropical storm data over the last 50 years in the Northeast Pacific Region with this data shown for yearly total Named Storms, Major Hurricanes and Accumulated Cyclone Energy. This data does no support climate alarmist claims of increasing storms severity in the Northeast Pacific Ocean because of “climate change”.
The 50 yearlong Accumulated Cyclone Energy data reflects the total duration, frequency and intensity impact of all storms occurring in the Northeast Pacific Ocean that could impact the coast of California with this data clearly not supporting flawed claims by climate alarmists that “climate change” is increasing storm severity.
The other type of strong cyclonic storms that impact both the western and eastern portions of the North America coastline are the so-called cool season Extratropical Cyclones typically hyped by the climate alarmist press as “bomb cyclones”.
These strong storms are most common on the east coast U.S. which averages one such bomb cyclone per year as noted in the article below.
The 2021 study by Robert Fritzen noted above evaluated the frequency, storm occurrence across the entire North American region and storm track of these storms from 1979 through 2019 and concluded that these storms have declined in rate of occurrence by about 15% during the last 20 years.
Storm data analysis of the most powerful storms that can impact the California coastline including both tropical storms and subtropical storms does not support the L A Times climate alarmist flawed claims (including the ridiculously climate alarmist over hyped recent tropical storm Hilary) that such storms are increasing in occurrence and severity because of “climate change”.
Another monumental failing of this L A Times sea level rise propaganda article is that it never discusses at all the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the role it has occupied for more than 150 years in addressing huge numbers of coastal projects on the California coastline during this timeframe.
This organization is preeminent in its experience, expertise, and success in addressing California coastline projects that have provided huge technical, economic, and environmental benefits to the state while resolving coastal sea level, storm, navigation, erosion challenges, etc.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers operations in California have successfully handled hundreds of coastal projects involving the construction, engineering, design, repair, harbor maintenance, marinas, dams, reservoirs, breakwaters, wetlands management and restoration, dredging, flood management, water supply, emergency management, flood risk management, navigation improvements, bridge building, lighthouses, sand replenishment, etc.
Here in Southern California the Los Angeles District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is responsible for 14 harbors as shown in the diagram below.
The magnitude and scope of this work is reflected and characterized as follows in the Los Angeles Army Corps summary description as follows:
“Some of our projects include: The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach which together makeup the fifth busiest port complex in the world and account for more than $420 billion in cargo annually, San Diego Harbor which is home to Naval Base Point Loma and the U.S. Third Fleet, Naval Air Station North Island, Naval Amphibious Base Coronado and the Port of San Diego which is a key regional commerce hub and in Los Angeles County, Marina del Rey Harbor which was constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1965 and is one of the largest recreational harbors in the United States with 5,300 slips.”
The L A Times article is unbelievably naive in its ridiculous meandering hodgepodge approach in trying to address the magnitude of the issues involved in dealing with the California coastline that completely ignores the huge efforts undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers over the last 150 years to address and resolve coastline sea level rise and erosion issues.
Worse yet the Times blithely dismisses without the slightest mention the enormous economic, environmental, and societal benefits that coastal development has provided to the state of California’s people, businesses, educational organizations, government organizations, cities, counties etc. over the last 150 years.
The photo below shows the completely undeveloped area of the Dana Point Headlands and Beach near where I live but as it looked in 1927. At that time heavy waves frequented the area because of the location, shape and depth of its bay as described in the book Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana Jr. in his incredible adventures there in the mid 1830s on his ship the Pilgrim.
In 1966 City and County officials asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to design a harbor for Dana Point that could be used to provide business, environmental and public benefit as well as other useful purposes with the harbor design studies document shown below.
The Dana Point harbor was designed to accommodate waves at its breakwater of up to 16 feet in height with controlled outcomes in the harbor that can provide safety for the wharfs and slips. The design sketch of the resulting harbor is shown below that accommodates over 2,200 small boat slips.
Given the wave height considerations required for its design the harbors breakwater configuration is not dictated or influenced by the small changes in relative sea level rise at Dana Point which uses the NOAA tide gage data at La Jolla, California as the closest measured relative sea level rise data used to evaluate its relative sea level. The rate of relative sea level rise is about 8 inches per century (0.67 feet per century) with that measurement applied over the last 98-year measurement period as shown below.
Work on the harbor was completed in 1968 with the beautiful Dana Point Harbor now being 55 years old. Over that timeframe the relative sea level has increased by an insignificant 4.4 inches with the harbor looking as shown in the photos below.
The top photo shows the buildings of the Ocean Institute (that was founded in 1977) located next to the dock (an old sailing ship replica of Richard Henry Dana’s Pilgrim ship is shown docked) at the base of the Dana Point Headlands – Headlands that are protected from development and where an information center provides exhibits regarding the history of the area and harbor and where hiking trials are available to the public.
The Institute has provided ocean and marine history and science education programs for more than 100,000 K-12 students and 8,000 teachers from Orange County and is open to the public to enjoy. Moored at the Institute is its 70-foot marine science research vessel, the R/V Sea Explorer (not shown in the top photo) used for student programs including whale watching.
The lower photo shows the 2,200 small boat slips, the extensive breakwater, a protected beach area and adjacent picnic grounds used by the public – one of several such picnic and beach areas in the harbor. The harbor includes numerous restaurants, shops, ocean rental equipment, fishing boats, ferry service to Catalina Island, etc.
Dana Point Harbor is home to numerous whale watching vessels that can operate nearly year round to view the large number of whale and dolphin species that traverse the near ocean off its harbor. Whale species seen at Dana Point include Blue whales, Humpback whales, Fin whales, Minke whales, Sperm whales as well as Orcas and numerous species of Dolphin.
In January 2021 Dana Point was designated by the World Cetacean Alliance as the very first Whale Heritage Site in North America (there only 3 other such sites in the world) that designates and acknowledges areas known for having cultural ties and respectful interactions with whales and dolphins.
Dana Point also sponsors a Festival of the Whales event in March every year and a Tall Ships Festival in September of every year where majestic and impressive sailing ships representing the past era of sailing ships enter the harbor and nearby ocean with rides available for the public.
The L A Times does a terrible job at addressing the huge and extraordinary world of the California coastline regions and the monumental value, benefits and success that changes to its coastline have brought to the state and all who live here.
The Times simply ignores the massive scale of extraordinary benefits and accomplishments that have been achieved along the California coastline and proceeds with its purely politically contrived and scientifically unsupported cause of “fighting climate change” while making false and ridiculous claims that a 166-year-old coastal wharf didn’t last longer because of the Times unsupported hype alleging stronger storms.