Governor Brown corrects statement about LAX and sea level rise


An aide to Jerry Brown confirmed Wednesday that the governor was wrong when he said global warming would eventually cause rising seawater to inundate Los Angeles International Airport.

Citing new studies, Brown called attention to the global warming issue on Tuesday, saying a predicted 4-foot rise in sea level within the next 200 years could force the relocation of LAX at a cost of billions of dollars.

But various sources say that the nation’s third-busiest airport -- bordered by the Pacific Ocean -- has elevations ranging from 108 feet to 126 feet and is protected by higher coastal bluffs on the west side.


“The governor misspoke about LAX,” said Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the Brown administration.

Environmental officials for Los Angeles World Airports, the operator of LAX, said the airport has an elevation of more than 120 feet. “A 4-foot rise in sea level,” they said, “should have minimal impact on airport operations.”

In addition, a recent study by USC’s Sea Grant Program did not identify LAX as one of the coastal areas in Los Angeles threatened by sea level rise.

Airport officials said, however, that any organization with coastal structures should be concerned about the potential adverse impact of climate change. They added that the airport department is part of a citywide effort to explore and plan ways to cope with predicted increases in sea level.

During a news conference Tuesday in Los Angeles, Brown mentioned current research, which concluded that a 4-foot rise in the world’s oceans could happen within 200 years as a massive cluster of glaciers melts in Antarctica.

“If that happens, the Los Angeles airport is going to be underwater. So is the San Francisco airport, ” Brown said, adding that the now-closed San Onofre nuclear power plant -- directly on the beach south of San Clemente -- would be submerged as well.


“You’re going to have to move all that,” he said. “That’s billions, if not tens of billions” of dollars.

Westrup noted that a national climate assessment report released last week concluded that low-lying U.S. airports such as San Francisco and Oakland International were vulnerable to sea level increases.

San Francisco and Oakland have elevations of 13 feet and 9 feet 10 inches respectively. San Onofre has a 30-foot high tsunami wall to protect it.

Westrup added that Brown was correct in his larger point about the need to prepare for the potentially devastating impact of climate change and extreme weather on future generations.