California state agencies have developed and issued for public review a draft 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy.  This is the first example of a strategic, operational plan for collaborative action by state agencies to adapt to impacts of global climate disruption and sea-level rise. The congressional climate and energy bill passed by the House in June (H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill), does not include development of a U.S. government-wide climate change adaptation strategy involving the full set of relevant agencies and issues.  A national adaptation strategy should be included in the Senate cap and trade bill now being developed.

We’re back after taking a two-week break to deal with other pressing matters.

2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy (3.65 MB)

California Climate Risk and Response (Roland-Holst and Kahrl, UC Berkeley, November 2008)

Climate Wire (by subscription) reported on August 4 (“Calif. becomes first to release adaptation plan”): 

California has become the first state to issue an agency-level plan for adapting to climate change, with the release yesterday of a draft report directing government to prepare for rising sea levels, increased wildfires and other expected changes….

The report fulfills Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s (R) executive order from last November….Having concluded that taking action to combat climate change is justified, given the $46 billion per year cost of inaction estimated by a University of California, Berkeley, study that came out the same day as the executive order, the state is directing its agencies to prepare to minimize damage. The report is divided into seven sections: public health, biodiversity and habitat, ocean and coastal resources, water management, agriculture, forestry, and transportation and energy infrastructure.

Among the recommendations:…“State agencies should generally not plan, develop, or build any new significant structure in a place where that structure will require significant protection from sea-level rise, storm surges, or coastal erosion during the expected life of the structure….All significant state projects, including infrastructure projects, must consider climate change impacts.“…

See the full 160-page report for a detailed discussion of climate change impacts issues and proposed adaptation strategies.

The report begins with:

Climate change is already affecting California. Sea levels have risen by as much as seven inches along the California Coast over the last century, increasing erosion and pressure on the state’s infrastructure, water supplies, and natural resources. The state has also seen increased average temperatures, more extreme hot days, fewer cold nights, a lengthening of the growing season, shifts in the water cycle with less winter precipitation falling as snow, and both snowmelt and rainwater running off sooner in the year.

These climate driven changes affect resources critical to the health and prosperity of California. For example, forest wildland fires are becoming more frequent and intense due to dry seasons that start earlier and end later. The state’s water supply, already stressed under current demands and expected population growth, will shrink under even the most conservative climate change scenario. Almost half a million Californians, many without the means to adjust to expected impacts, will be at risk from sea level rise along bay and coastal areas. California’s infrastructure is already stressed and will face additional burdens from climate risks. And as the Central Valley becomes more urbanized, more people will be at risk from intense heat waves.

If the state were to take no action to reduce or minimize expected impacts from future climate change, the costs could be severe. A 2008 report by the University of California, Berkeley and
the non-profit organization Next 10 estimates that if no action is taken in California, damages across sectors would result in “tens of billions of dollars per year in direct costs” and “expose trillions of dollars of assets to collateral risk.”

H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill passed by the House in June, includes a Subtitle on Adapting to Climate Change.  (More in future posts on this and its Senate counterpart now being developed.).  One component of the Adaptation subtitle is the establishment of a new federal program to protect U.S. natural resources from the threat of climate change and ocean acidification.  Under this program, the White House Council on Environmental Quality would chair an interagency Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Panel made up of representatives of 10 or more federal departments and agencies.  The Panel would develop a Natural Resources Climate Change Adaptation Strategy, agencies would develop adaptation plans, and states could receive funding to implement approved state-level plans. This natural resources adaptation activity would be focused on fish, wildlife, and plant habitat and ecosystems, including coastal zones and ocean acidification. Waxman-Markey, in a separate section, also would establish a new program with a plan to support public health professionals and health care systems at all levels to prepare to respond to the health impacts of climate change. These provisions are important steps in the right direction.

Unlike the California plan, Waxman-Markey does not call for a national climate change adaptation strategy that would also include issues such as transportation and energy infrastructure, agriculture and forestry, and water supply management.  The Senate, in its version of the climate legislation, should include the development and implementation of a national climate change adaptation strategy that incorporates all relevant issues, with participation by all relevant government agencies.

See our earlier posts:
Climate change impacts in our back yards: the Southwest

“Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States”—Report Overview