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Editorial: Rising oceans could wash away revenue

Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who brought his presidential campaign to Corona del Mar last week — may not believe in global warming, but perhaps a new study about the effects climate change could have on the economy could get him to reconsider the science. Expected beach erosion and the death of sea life caused by warmer waters could wash away hundreds of millions in tourism and tax dollars statewide, according to a recent study by San Francisco State economists.

If the environmental reasons are not enough to get the attention of those who don’t believe in the man-made causes of global warming, perhaps the economic reasons will prove convincing. That’s critical for those of us along the Orange County coast, where the ocean defines our way of life.

“You need a certain amount of space for people to recreate, and, as beaches erode, you lose beach size and you lose tourism,” study author Phillip King, an associate professor of economics at San Francisco State, told theLos Angeles Times.

The study, which assumed that the Pacific Ocean could rise 55 inches by the start of the next century, predicted that tourist destinations in Southern California will lose hundreds of millions in tourism spending and accompanying tax revenue. Also at risk are homes and the property taxes levied on them.

King told The Times that the best thing Californians can do is build sea walls, add sand to areas where it is diminishing and build structures away from the coastline. We support those engineering efforts, but also believe that it’s time for Californians to ease their dependency on the carbon-intensive activities that will make the oceans rise. The climate change train may have already left the station but it may not be too late to at least reduce some of the damage.

And though we took an easy — some would say, cheap — shot at Perry, we should note that President Obama’s record is not exactly green. Though he believes in climate change, he has backed away from campaign pledges to aggressively address it because of his fear that greater business regulation will lead to even more unemployment. That argument could have been made by any of Obama’s predecessors and he shouldn’t become the next one to kick the can down the road.

The truth is both Perry and Obama — and their respective political parties — need to be held accountable for their positions on this issue. Obama ignoring science for political expediency is as bad as Perry denying it.