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See The Effects Of Climate Change Through A VR Set On The Santa Monica Pier

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Contrary to what our president-elect thinks, the threat of global climate change is very real and will affect our own shorelines here in Southern California.

On Tuesday, USC, in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and the City of Santa Monica, launched a virtual reality installation on the Santa Monica Pier that shows visitors the projected future of Santa Monica Beach, and the rising creep of the sea level towards PCH.

According to the USGS, sea level rise in Southern California will match global projections, with a rise of 5 to 24 inches by 2050, and an additional 12 to 38 inches between 2050 and 2100.

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"Sea level rise is a slow moving crisis that's hard to see, and harder to get people energized around, but this technology will help bring it home in a very tangible way," said Dean Kubani, Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Santa Monica. "Seeing firsthand how the change will impact us will be a very powerful experience for all of our beach lovers."

Called "The Owl," it looks like one of those traditional coin-operated binoculars. But when one peeks into it, the viewer can catch a glimpse of the "new normal" for Santa Monica. "This will happen within the lifetime of a child playing on this very pier today," according to The Owl. There's still lots of sand, but you can see that the base of the lifeguard stations are now submerged:

Oh, and here's the worst-case scenario to come with projected sea level rise and an intense storm. The surge reaches all the way to PCH!

Such intense storms, by the way, might increase in frequency due to climate change. According to NASA's Earth Observatory:

But even as a warming climate might decrease the overall number of storms that form, it could increase the number of intense storms. As temperatures continue to rise, more and more water vapor could evaporate into the atmosphere, and water vapor is the fuel for storms. "If we are creating an atmosphere more loaded with humidity, any storm that does develop has greater potential to develop into an intense storm,"; says [George] Tselioudis, [a research scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and Columbia University.]

But it's not all doom and gloom. The Owl suggests that coastal communities have many options to prepare for sea level rise. One one option it projects is the restoration of natural sand dunes along the coast. Shoreline habitats like sand dunes and wetlands are natural buffers against the creeping sea level, though most have been lost due to human development:

"While we can't stop the inexorable changes to our beaches, we do have cutting-edge science that helps us plan today and adapt to the future," said Phyllis Grifman, associate director at USC Sea Grant in a release. "It's important to have a community-based discussion about how to adapt, and the Owl helps start this conversation."

The Owl will be on the Santa Monica Pier through December 31. You can check out a preview of it in the video above, or click here for an interactive preview, which also allows you to submit your email address to get involved.

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