California will face billions of dollars in spending to cope with the consequences of rising sea levels if low-lying communities along the coast are ultimately submerged, as scientists predict, Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday.
Brown’s remarks came a day after the release of two studies finding that a slow-motion and irreversible collapse of a massive cluster of glaciers in Antarctica has begun and could cause sea levels to rise worldwide by 4 feet within 200 years.
"If that happens, the Los Angeles airport's going to be underwater," Brown told reporters at a presentation of his revised state budget proposal in Los Angeles.
"So is the San Francisco airport." Also underwater, he added, would be the San Onofre nuclear power plant.
"You’re going to have to move all that," Brown said. "That’s billions, if not tens of billions. Luckily, we can take a few years." He joked: "Maybe my next year’s budget will handle that."
As Brown reviewed highlights of his revised $156.2-billion spending proposal for the fiscal year starting July 1, he stressed plans to pay down state debt, expand healthcare coverage and shore up the teachers' retirement system to prevent it from running out of money.
In budget talks with state lawmakers, Brown, who is running for a fourth term, faces pressure from fellow Democrats to restore more of the social-service spending that was cut during the economic downturn.
And some legislators are resisting his call for using money from the state’s greenhouse gas reduction program to help fund his prized high-speed rail project.