Economists Wonder: Is It Worth It to Save Oceanfront Development?

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From the New York Times:

Economists are coming up with new ways of predicting damage to oceanfront resorts, highways and homes and reassessing the wisdom of further coastal development.

An upcoming study by economists at University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and San Francisco State University modeled 15 miles of California beaches and found large differences in the costs and benefits of shoring up eroding coastlines.

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Assuming a low-end estimate of 1 meter sea-level rise, a 100-year flood at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach would cause $285 million in property damage, compared to $107 million in 2000.

At Venice Beach in Los Angeles, damages would rise from $10 million to $131 million. Damages from tourists choosing to spend their dollars elsewhere would also have outsize impact on Venice Beach; the popular stretch of boardwalk would lose up to $7 billion by 2100, compared to $385 million at Ocean Beach if sea levels rise 2 meters, the highest level the researchers analyzed.

Such results would inform policymakers, homeowners and insurers’ decisions on what to do to protect their property: erect seawalls or other barriers, try beach “nourishment” (dumping sand to counteract erosion), or give up entirely and relocate.

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