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The Golden State at Risk

From: 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy

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 such 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.” More specifically, the report suggests that of the state’s $4 trillion in real estate assets “$2.5 trillion is at risk from extreme weather events, sea level rise, and wildfires“ with a projected annual price tag of up to $3.9 billion over this century depending on climate scenarios. The figure at right, from a study by the Pacific
Institute, shows coastal property at risk from projected sea level rise by county with replacement values as high as $24 billion in San Mateo County.

Post last edited on: 2011 May 10


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