Climate change-related flooding threatens $150B in California real estate: report

U.S. Geological Survey study follows recent devastating wildfires in the state that have devastated homes

Flooding in the coastal town of Guerneville, California in the 1980s
Flooding in the coastal town of Guerneville, California in the 1980s

That’s a lot of people and a lot of property.

A study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that around half a million Californians and $150 billion in coastal real estate are at risk of flooding by the end of the century, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Scientists modeled sea level rise together with storms and other natural threats in state’s coastal regions together for the first time.

Previous studies looked at single risks, like storms and beach erosion. The USGS study showed that three times as many people are at risk when sea level rise and other threats are modeled together than when only sea level rise was considered.

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The agency’s finding were not necessarily surprising. November’s deadly Woolsey Fire caused an estimated $5 billion alone in property damage during its three-week burn through Los Angeles and Ventura counties.

Storms and other natural disasters are expected to become more common in the coming decades, said Patrick Bernard, research director of the USGS Climate Impacts and Coastal Processes Team.

“These are significant events that are going to recur and be 10 times the scale of the worst wildfires and earthquakes that we’ve experience in modern California history,” he told the Times.

Meanwhile, the storms and floods make it increasingly difficult for homeowners. The recent string of wildfires across the state has insurers pulling back coverage in high-risk areas to reduce their exposure.

But companies are not immune. Pacific Gas & Electric, facing billions of dollars in liabilities related to wildfires, filed for bankruptcy in January as it became increasingly likely the company played a role in Northern California’s Camp Fire. [LAT] Dennis Lynch