If you live in California, you might worry about the Big One. But in coastal states, including California, sea-level rise is another pressing issue. Current scientific estimates on the Golden State say that sea-level rise could destroy $150 billion in coastal property by 2100. Scientists estimate that two-thirds of the coast will disappear, along with beaches, marshes that house hundreds of species, and roads like the Pacific Coast Highway.
With that in mind, the Los Angeles Times put together an interactive game that shows how people could avoid what seems like an avoidable fate. With a limited budget, you can build coastal walls to stop the sea from destroying your home. You can add sand to the beaches or buy out other homeowners so they move away from the coastline. You can even hire a consultant to help you.
You can actually win the game, but the only winning move—spoiler alert!—is to pay people to leave their homes and move elsewhere. Which is something that homeowners are fighting in real life. In the game, homeowners resist at the beginning, asking for more money than what you have in your budget to buy them out. But after a few turns, as the water level rises, they will all take the lowest offer to get the hell out of there. In the end, nature doesn’t give a damn about property rights.
The city of Pacifica is already experiencing these dramatic events as reality. The California city keeps throwing money at the problem, but despite building walls in an effort to stop the ocean from erasing the city forever, it looks like a losing battle. Other coastal cities will likely experience the same fate, as scientists predict that the sea level will rise more than nine feet by the end of the century on the West Coast. Erosion, which is already destroying homes as land collapses under the constant beating of rising sea waves, is another issue.
Fires and earthquakes are a more immediate risk, of course—blame boiling-frog syndrome to explain why sea level rise seems less pressing. But the coming decades may prove us short-sighted.