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Preparing for the Future: Climate Change and the Monterey Bay Shoreline

Abeles, A., K. Grimmer, and H. Papendick (December 2011)

Summary Report for Participants, December 6, 2011, Monterey, CA. 58pp.


Climate change currently affects communities around the globe. In the Monterey Bay region, a number of communities are integrating climate change adaptation in local planning processes while others are just beginning to grapple with this important issue. To facilitate adaptation to climate change in the Monterey Bay region, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) and Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) convened regional decision makers at a one-day workshop, titled "Preparing for the Future: Climate Change and the Monterey Bay Shoreline."

Held on December 6, 2011, the event was the first Monterey Bay region-wide gathering on climate change adaptation. More than 90 people attended from cities and municipalities in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, representing city and county staff, state and federal governments, research institutions and nonprofit organizations. They heard from featured experts and participated in breakout group sessions.

The workshop demonstrated to participants that past experience with storms and strong El Niño conditions provide the Monterey Bay region with concrete examples of what increased sea level and storm intensity may mean for the area's future. Sea level, coastal erosion, coastal inundation, salt water intrusion, and storm and wave damage will increase in frequency and intensity from climate change. Because most changes won't happen overnight, communities have time to prepare.

Examples of climate change adaptation plans from government jurisdictions around the country were shared at the workshop. Adaptation planning is conceptually simple but becomes complex in practice, often requiring difficult and contentious choices. Successful case studies provide lessons for navigating these difficult waters and suggest the importance of building and maintaining a strong team, incorporating the most up to date and relevant scientific information and engaging the public throughout the process.

Jurisdictions in this region have similar needs for successful adaptation planning, including public support, resources (staff time and funding), localized data, private sector engagement, political support and increased regional coordination. Fortunately, the region can access many resources now to support adaptation planning, such as tested decision support and planning tools, numerous local scientific institutions, and online resources and guides that are regionally applicable.

Workshop goals for participants were to:

  • Begin Monterey Bay region-wide discussion and collaboration on climate change adaptation
  • Understand the latest research on climate change impacts to the Monterey Bay coastline
  • Gain a basic understanding of the typical climate change adaptation planning process
  • Witness how communities in the Monterey Bay area are already planning for climate change
  • Learn about grant opportunities and other resources (tools, assistance) available to support climate change adaptation planning
  • Have the opportunity to develop new collaborations and partnerships in climate change adaptation planning

During the workshop, the following themes emerged:

  • If Monterey Bay communities start now, they will have time to prepare for the impacts of climate change on their coast. Past storms provide examples of the range of impacts to expect from changes in sea level and storminess as a result of climate change
  • A range of tools and resources currently exists for climate change adaptation planning
  • Uncertainty in local projections is unavoidable so communities should not wait for perfect information to begin adaptation planning
  • There are very real and difficult barriers to making progress in climate change adaptation, including lack of resources, unprecedented regulatory challenges, low perceived public support, and limited local data; yet by working collaboratively it is possible to overcome these challenges

During the workshop, participants expressed the following needs and ideas:

  • A range of limitations and opportunities exists to successfully incorporate climate change adaptation into current planning processes
  • State and federal agency permitting requirements influence local planning agencies and can either limit or drive action toward climate change adaptation
  • Local planners and decision makers want localized data and projections, especially regarding sea level rise
  • Climate change preparations will benefit from increasing and deepening regional collaborations among local governments, scientific institutions and non-profit organizations
  • Developing and using a regionally consistent set of projections for sea level rise and coastal erosion that can be applied during planning and permitting processes would be useful

During the workshop, participants recommended the following next steps for the region (discussed in detail in Section VI):

  • Improve understanding of local impacts of climate change and develop actionable recommendations for moving forward
  • Design and implement a governance structure for the Monterey Bay region that could aid and coordinate climate change adaptation and related activities
  • Continue the discussion initiated at the workshop by building a regional network of people interested in or working on climate change adaptation
  • Expand the scope of stakeholder involvement to include in-person discussions and engage coastal business owners, landowners and the general public
  • Create a technical advisory group on climate change adaptation for the region
  • Actively use the Internet as a way to connect and educate the regional communit
  • Jointly apply for funding to support coastal climate change adaptation work in the region
  • Develop climate change projection data at a scale fine enough to use for local planning
  • Consider a public engagement campaign to help increase awareness about the need for climate adaptation planning and preparation

Reviewed: April 11, 2024
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

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