Liz Gagneron: A Climate Ready Coast for All of Us

Author: Liz Gagneron
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2017
Host Agency: California State Coastal Conservancy

As a teenager in San Diego, I had the immense of privilege of spending my entire summer surfing at the beach. Back then, it was just about the joy of being out on the water and the pure rush of catching a wave.

Most Californians, like my high school self, are unaware of how much the state is dedicated to preserving our enjoyment of the coastline. After all, our beaches and waterfronts are what make California iconic. The mission of the State Coastal Conservancy is to ensure that all Californians have a coastline that they can enjoy now and far into the future. But what does that really mean in the face of climate change?

As sea levels rise and extreme heat worsens, the communities that typically feel the first and greatest impacts are those that are already more vulnerable to such hazards. When I first started my California Sea Grant fellowship in the Climate Ready Program at the Coastal Conservancy, I had to quickly get up to speed on all of these climate impacts, as well as the idea of environmental justice – ensuring there is a voice for communities that are especially vulnerable to climate change. To make the coast and especially these vulnerable communities “Climate Ready” is an enormous task that requires the coordination and teamwork among all levels, from federal to state to local jurisdictions and communities.

This year, the Coastal Conservancy piloted a Climate Ready grant of technical assistance. Being the first fellow to manage a grant of “technical assistance” has been an exciting challenge. The selected project truly embodies this essential idea of collaboration across all community levels. We are in the process of developing a series of climate adaptation workshops aimed at training and arming local county and city staff with what they need to begin incorporating and preparing for climate change impacts into their day-to-day work, especially focusing on building resilience within vulnerable communities.

When I’m out on the coast, it’s impossible not to appreciate the beauty of California. But now, I can also visualize all of the layers that truly make this place special and valuable. Though the invisible effects of climate change may be close at hand, I can also now see the countless efforts to adapt and the network of agencies and policies that are in place or in development to preserve our iconic California coast for all of us.

Written by Liz Gagneron