The State of California has released the final version of its Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in the wake of a public comment period earlier this year. The strategy, which was prepared in response to Executive Order S-13-08 from Governor Schwarzenegger, presents an extended discussion of climate change and its potential impacts to California as well as a range of adaptation options to reduce vulnerability and risk.
Key recommendations include:
- A Climate Adaptation Advisory Panel (CAAP) will be appointed to assess the greatest risks to California from climate change and recommend strategies to reduce those risks building on California’s Climate Adaptation Strategy. This panel will be convened by the California Natural Resources Agency, in coordination with the Governor’s Climate Action Team, to complete a report by December 2010. The state will partner with the Pacific Council on International Policy to assemble this panel. A list of panel members can be found on the California adaptation Web site.
- California must change its water management and uses because climate change will likely create greater competition for limited water supplies needed by the environment, agriculture, and cities. As directed by the recently signed water legislation (Senate Bill X71), state agencies must implement strategies to achieve a statewide 20 percent reduction in per capita water use by 2020, expand surface and groundwater storage, implement efforts to fix Delta water supply, quality, and ecosystem conditions, support agricultural water use efficiency,improve state-wide water quality, and improve Delta ecosystem conditions and stabilize water supplies as developed in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan.
- Consider project alternatives that avoid significant new development in areas that cannot be adequately protected (planning, permitting, development, and building) from flooding, wildfire and erosion due to climate change. The most risk-averse approach for minimizing the adverse effects of sea level rise and storm activities is to carefully consider new development within areas vulnerable to inundation and erosion. 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. However, vulnerable shoreline areas containing existing development that have regionally significant economic, cultural, or social value may have to be protected, and in-fill development in these areas may be accommodated. State agencies should incorporate this policy into their decisions and other levels of government are also encouraged to do so.
- All state agencies responsible for the management and regulation of public health,
infrastructure or habitat subject to significant climate change should prepare as appropriate agency-specific adaptation plans, guidance, or criteria by September 2010.
- To the extent required by CEQA Guidelines Section 15126.2, all significant state projects, including infrastructure projects, must consider the potential impacts of locating such projects in areas susceptible to hazards resulting from climate change. Section 15126.2 is currently being proposed for revision by CNRA to direct lead agencies to evaluate the impacts of locating development in areas susceptible to hazardous conditions, including hazards potentially exacerbated by climate change. Locating state projects in such areas may require additional guidance that in part depends on planning tools that the CAS recommendations call for.
- The California Emergency Management Agency (Cal EMA) will collaborate with CNRA, the CAT, the Energy Commission, and the CAAP to assess California's vulnerability to climate change, identify impacts to state assets, and promote climate adaptation/mitigation awareness through the Hazard Mitigation Web Portal and My Hazards Website as well as other appropriate sites. The transportation sector CAWG, led by Caltrans, will specifically assess how transportation nodes are vulnerable and the type of information that will be necessary to assist response to district emergencies. Special attention will be paid to the most vulnerable communities impacted by climate change in all studies.
- Using existing research the state should identify key California land and aquatic habitats that could change significantly during this century due to climate change. Based on this identification, the state should develop a plan for expanding existing protected areas or altering land and water management practices to minimize adverse effects from climate change induced phenomena.
- The best long-term strategy to avoid increased health impacts associated with climate change is to ensure communities are healthy to build resilience to increased spread of disease and temperature increases. The California Department of Public Health will develop guidance by September 2010 for use by local health departments and other agencies to assess mitigation and adaptation strategies, which include impacts on vulnerable populations and communities and assessment of cumulative health impacts. This includes assessments of land use, housing and transportation proposals that could impact health, GHG emissions, and community resilience for climate change, such as in the 2008 Senate Bill 375 regarding Sustainable Communities.
- The most effective adaptation strategies relate to short and long-term decisions. Most of these decisions are the responsibility of local community planning entities. As a result, communities with General Plans and Local Coastal Plans should begin, when possible, to amend their plans to assess climate change impacts, identify areas most vulnerable to these impacts, and develop reasonable and rational risk reduction strategies using the CAS as guidance. Every effort will be made to provide tools, such as interactive climate impact maps, to assist in these efforts.
- State fire fighting agencies should begin immediately to include climate change impact information into fire program planning to inform future planning efforts. Enhanced wildfire risk from climate change will likely increase public health and safety risks, property damage, fire suppression and emergency response costs to government, watershed and water quality impacts, and vegetation conversions and habitat fragmentation.
- State agencies should meet projected population growth and increased energy demand with greater energy conservation and an increased use of renewable energy. Renewable energy supplies should be enhanced through the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan that will protect sensitive habitat that will while helping to reach the state goal of having 33 percent of California’s energy supply from renewable sources by 2020.
- Existing and planned climate change research can and should be used for state planning and public outreach purposes; new climate change impact research should be broadened and funded. By September 2010, the California Energy Commission will develop the CalAdapt Web site that will synthesize existing California climate change scenarios and climate impact research and to encourage its use in a way that is beneficial for local decision-makers. Every effort will be made to increase funding for climate change research, focusing on three areas:linkages with federal funding resources, developing Energy Commission -led vulnerability studies, and synthesizing the latest climate information into useable information for local needs through the CalAdapt tool.