A new blue line was drawn on the map of the City of Santa Barbara by a group of graduate students at the Bren School of Environmental Science. The master’s degree candidates studied the extent to which the sea will encroach upon the land by the year 2100 if global warming proceeds apace. They concluded that the shoreline would not move much further inland than it is now because Santa Barbara’s topography is more than two meters above sea level.
The researchers looked at three potential year 2100 scenarios: sea levels rising a half-meter, 1.4 meters, or two meters, based on projections from various researchers. In the worst case scenario, a two-meter rise, the ocean would lap the edge of Cabrillo Boulevard, according to the researchers’ final report. If the sea rises 1.4 meters, it will inundate much of Chase Palm Park. At half a meter the rising waters would consume “almost exclusively soft, sandy beach area.” Researchers noted that even this half-meter rise would worsen coastal storm impacts downtown and at the Santa Barbara Airport, included in the study because it is City of Santa Barbara property.
The conclusions conjured up a decidedly less alarming scene than that suggested by the Light Blue Line project, whose supporters sought to paint a line through the City of Santa Barbara showing where the shoreline would move to if the sea were to rise 21 feet as a result of Greenland completely melting in about 500 years. The Light Blue Line project’s primary backer – Bruce Caron of New Media Studio, a Santa Barbara nonprofit dedicated to education about climate change – pulled the project application from the city’s further consideration in the face of organized opposition from real estate interests. New Media Studio was also the putative client of the Bren School project. He expressed optimism in the wake of the recent change in presidential administrations. “We have a new government looking very closely at this,” he said, “taking it seriously and able to partner with other partners to actually solve a problem, so it’s all very encouraging.”