The Effects of Climate Change on California Tourism

by Owen Dubeck

The chapter “Tourism and Recreation,” from Climate Change in California, explains the economic impact climate change will have on California tourism. The $96 Billion industry is divided into three parts, beaches, winter recreation, and outdoor recreation. While all three sectors will see economic losses from climate change, the article also discusses the less talked-about advantages. With rapidly melting glaciers causing rising sea levels, California’s coastlines are susceptible to the largest economic consequences. Scientists predict that rising water levels will reduce beach widths in Southern California by 62 feet. Smaller beaches mean lower attendance, which will hurt local economies. Temporary efforts to cover up the consequences of climate change include moving in more sand via dump trucks. Rising sea levels will cause Huntington Beach to invest $16 million in beach nourishment. However, this sea level rise would not affect Laguna Beach adversely. Instead, they would actually save money.

Winter recreation, although a smaller industry, is already seeing drastic changes from climate change. A typical ski season in California lasts 200 days. This figure has been steadily reducing and may drop to 49 days by the year 2100. Two factors contribute towards a shorter ski season. The first is warmer temperatures that cause snow to start later in the year. The second is that warmer temperatures cause the snowpack to melt quickly on the back end of the season. Low-altitude ski resorts will see the largest consequences in the coming years, while the high-altitude ones will only see minor consequences. The low-altitude resorts use snowmaking machines to counter the effects of climate change. However, this option may become too expensive as yearly snowfall drops farther.

Outdoor recreation includes fishing and public parks, both of which will experience economic adversity. Higher temperatures will require more maintainence and increase the frequency of wildfires. Changes in water temperature of streams could kill off fish populations, leading to a decrease in fishing tourism. Reservoir systems have been altered in order to lower stream temperatures.

All three industries will experience economic loss from climate change and temporary plans have been put in place to suppress these consequences. However, it is clear that with rising water levels and increasing temperatures more sustainable solutions must be enacted in order to retain levels of California Tourism.


Carl, Fredrich, and David Roland-Holst. Climate Change in California. Berkeley,

CA: University of California Press, 2010, 90-99.



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