Water: Visit https://picturing.climatecentral.org to see renderings of other sites impacted by climate change. Climate Central

It’s hard to visualize the effects of climate change, but a new graphic that shows what the Santa Monica Pier could look like if temperatures continue to rise helps put things into perspective.

Climate Central recently released a series of images showing the impact of climate change on popular destinations, including the Santa Monica Pier.

In less than a century, one of California’s most popular tourist attractions could be underwater due to rising sea levels.

However, Santa Monica is working to make sure this nightmare scenario does not become a reality.

“The recent visualization created by Climate Central and reported by CNN are an accurate reflection of the current climate crisis and the potential impacts of sea level rise and coastal storms here in Santa Monica and in coastal communities around the globe in the future,” Shannon Parry, the city’s Chief Sustainability Officer said. “It is worth noting that these models and visualizations reflect a worse case scenario if climate change goes on unabated. Here in Santa Monica we are actively working to address climate change and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The City established a goal to be Carbon Neutral by 2050 or sooner and we are on track to achieve this outcome. Santa Monica’s emissions in 2019 were 36% below 1990 levels. In 2020, during the COVID pandemic, Santa Monica’s emissions decreased an additional 37%.”

New research from Climate Central shows that under the current emissions pathway leading toward 3°C global warming, about 50 major cities around the world will need to mount globally unprecedented defenses or lose most of their populated areas to unremitting sea level rise.

The high tide line could encroach above land occupied by roughly 10% of the current global population, which is over 800 million people after 3°C of warming.

Threats are global but concentrated in Asia, where megacity futures hang in the balance in four of the top five most threatened nations.

China, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia are all in the top five countries most at risk from long-term rise. They are also countries that have added the most new coal-burning capacity from 2015-2019.

In China, after 3°C of warming, roughly 43 million people could be below high tide levels by the end of this century. China has the most to gain from limiting warming, with roughly 50 million people on land that multi-century sea level rise threatens after 3°C warming, but who would be safe if warming is limited to 1.5°C.

In Santa Monica the Pier deck could be at sea level or just under the water with the rest of the coastline completely flooded.

Climate Central’s peer-reviewed research paper focuses on the contrast between 4°C and 2°C warming scenarios, and appears in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters.

The recent report instead focuses on the contrast between 3°C and 1.5°C scenarios, which correspond to continuing the current trajectory vs. making deep and immediate cuts to climate pollution, dropping to roughly half of today’s annual emissions by 2030.

daniel@smdp.com