Climate change claims railways, homes and beaches in California

The sea engulfs California homes, trails, and beautiful beaches.

Steve Lang can see catastrophic erosion exacerbated by climate change occurring in real time along one of the world’s most scenic railroad lines, where the sea engulfs California’s homes, tracks and beautiful beaches.

“Every day I come here and look at it, and I feel like crying,” the 68-year-old tells AFP on the tracks he crosses to go surfing.

Powerful waves pour from the Pacific onto the tracks where the “Pacific Surfliner” flows, transporting tourists through the beautiful coastal landscapes of Southern California.

Not so long ago, the railroad was cushioned by hundreds of feet (tens of meters) of golden sand. But the violent southern storm surges swept that sand away.

With the beach gone, there was nothing that could protect the railings from the fury of tropical storm Kay that lashed the coast in September, devouring the land they were on.

The runway, which carries 8.3 million passengers annually between San Diego and San Luis Obispo, is now closed for emergency work.

Climate change

In the luxurious Cyprus Shore settlement, an enclave of about a hundred lavish villas that was once the home of former President Richard Nixon, residents stare uneasily.

Without the beach to protect it, the slope on which it is built is being devoured and multimillion-dollar houses are sliding towards the sea.

The hill is wearing out and the multimillion-dollar houses are sliding towards the sea

The hill is wearing out and the multimillion-dollar houses are sliding towards the sea.

The parking lot on the cliff is collapsing and two villas with cracked walls are now officially uninhabitable.

“These houses were worth at least $ 10 million each,” says Lang.

“We’ve been trying to raise the alert for years, but we don’t have much traction.”

The tragedy of the flooded waters is not limited to San Clemente, says interim mayor Chris Duncan, but represents a problem for the entire state.

“This area here on Cyprus Shore … is a microcosm,” he says.

“The entire coast of California is threatened by climate change and threatened by coastal erosion.”

Erosion is a natural phenomenon that has helped shape our continents over the millennia.

But scientists say it is being accelerated by global warming; exacerbated by sea level rise caused by melting polar ice caps and glaciers and more powerful waves holding back warmer oceans.

Humanity’s uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution has caused global average temperatures to rise by 1.2 degrees centigrade. They are expected to continue to grow.

Scientists say erosion is accelerated by global warming

Scientists say erosion is accelerated by global warming.

“Battle lost”

According to a 2019 study published by the California state legislature, by 2050, between $ 8 and $ 10 billion worth of infrastructure could be underwater in California, and other construction worth $ 6 to $ 10 billion will be in. an area at risk of high tide.

In San Clemente, local transportation authorities are trying to stabilize the moving tracks.

Every day, tons of rocks are dumped to reinforce and protect the dam, in a $ 12 million project that is expected to last more than six weeks.

But “it’s a losing battle,” sighs Duncan.

The line was closed in September 2021 to add 18,000 tons of rock and that didn’t solve the problem.

“Although the rock can temporarily stabilize the slope, it causes an exponential loss of sand,” he says.

“Because now when the waves hit, it doesn’t hit a soft beach. It hits a hard rock, it bounces, it takes all the other sand with it.”

By 2050, between $ 8 and $ 10 billion of infrastructure could be underwater in California

By 2050, between $ 8 and $ 10 billion of infrastructure could be underwater in California.

Duncan wants federal money to rebuild the beaches.

“I’m talking about breakwaters, living shores, any groin where it might be appropriate.”

Some argue for a more radical solution to save the railway line.

“The best thing would be to move (the track) away from the coast,” says Joseph Street, a geologist at the California Coastal Commission.

“But obviously it’s a big, big effort to do it, very expensive.”

And, he points out, it does nothing to protect at-risk homes behind the runway.

Withdraw

“Many of our planners and decision makers have really struggled to answer this problem,” says Stefanie Sekich-Quinn, of the Surfrider Foundation.

The environmental NGO advocates moving the line away from the coast, an option proposed in a 2009 federal report.

  • Every day tons of rocks are dumped to reinforce the dam

    Every day tons of rocks are dumped to reinforce the dam.

  • The tragedy of boundless waters isn't limited to San Clemente, says interim mayor Chris Duncan, but a problem for the stat

    The flood waters tragedy isn’t limited to San Clemente, says Acting Mayor Chris Duncan, but it poses a problem for the state of California.

California has a handful of such initiatives. On the same rail line, authorities in neighboring San Diego announced a $ 300 million project this year to relocate a portion of the track inland.

But in San Clemente, this really is a last resort, says Duncan.

“People will want officials like me to work to save our homes, to save our rail corridor and not just to surrender,” he says.


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© 2022 AFP

Citation: Climate Change Claims Railways, Homes, and Beaches in California (2022, Oct.16) Recovered Oct.16, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-climate-railways-houses-beaches-california.html

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