More wildfires. Hotter days. Drought. Sea-level rise.
Those conditions are an increasing reality in California, which is steadily becoming an altered state. But if the grimmest predictions of experts about our state and climate change become true, the conditions will become far worse.
“Average summer temperatures in California have risen by approximately 3 degrees F (1.8℃) since 1896, with more than half of that increase occurring since the early 1970s,” reported the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
Data shows “California experiencing more droughts and floods per decade than any other part of the country…” — The Nature Conservancy
“If global greenhouse gas emissions continue at current rates, the state is likely to experience further warming by more than 2 degrees F more by 2040, more than 4 degrees F by 2070, and by more than 6 degrees F by 2100,” Scripps said.
Deadly wildfires have ravaged the state and more are likely this year.
During the last eight years, “catastrophic wildfires have taken 199 lives, burned 10.8 million acres & destroyed 51,086 structures,” The Nature Conservancy reported. “Climate-exacerbated weather patterns have created both extreme heat and flooding with California experiencing more droughts and floods per decade than any other part of the country…. An estimated 700,000 Californians can no longer safely drink water from their taps.”
In the hard-hit North Bay region north of San Francisco, there is “a legacy of 23 major blazes totaling nearly 1.5 million acres — the equivalent of 130% of Sonoma County — from 2015 through 2020,” the Press Democrat reported,
California “must tackle the drought emergency head-on while addressing long-standing water challenges…” — Gavin Newsom
“The names of those fires are seared into the region’s memory, and their footprints now abut across a burned landscape stretching from the Mendocino National Forest to Interstate 80 outside Vacaville and from the Russian River near Guerneville to Blue Ridge overlooking Lake Berryessa and the Central Valley.”
The situation has not gone unrecognized by California officialdom.
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised state budget, reflecting sharp, surprising increases in revenue, seeks $5.1 billion “to address immediate, emergency needs, build regional capacity to endure drought and safeguard water supplies for communities, the economy and the environment.”
California, he said, “must tackle the drought emergency head-on while addressing long-standing water challenges and helping to secure vital and limited water supplies to sustain our state into the future.”
“The sea level along California’s coasts has risen nearly 8 inches in the past century and is projected to rise by as much as 20 to 55 inches by the end of the century.” — State Attorney General analysis
It’s part of Newsom’s proposed $11.8 billion plan aimed at dealing with harmful effects of climate change. Overall, the governor wants:
- More money to prevent and fight wildfires
- Increased use of electric vehicles
- Drought relief measures
- And what he describes as the “single largest investment in wildfire preparedness in our state’s history.”
That last would include $2 billion for more Cal Fire airplanes and helicopters, more firebreaks in forests and help for rural residents who want to increase home safeguards against fires. Newsom pointed out in his accompanying message that California suffered 9,000 wildfires in 2020.
Attorney General Rob Bonta issued a roundup of climate change impacts on California, leading off with sea-level rise.
“Approximately 85% of California’s population live and work in coastal counties. The sea level along California’s coasts has risen nearly 8 inches in the past century and is projected to rise by as much as 20 to 55 inches by the end of the century,” the analysis noted. “A 55-inch sea level rise could put nearly half a million people at risk of flooding by 2100, and threaten $100 billion in property and infrastructure, including roadways, buildings, hazardous waste sites, power plants, and parks and tourist destinations.”
Other effects included losses to the Sierra snowpack and water supply, damage to agriculture, public health impacts, and habitat destruction and loss of ecosystems.
“When it comes to getting our future right, the stakes have never been higher.” — Kevin Slagle
Bill Magavern, policy director of the Coalition for Clean Air, called for “adopting laws and rules that require a transition to non-polluting engines in everything from trucks, cars and buses to locomotives, boats and leaf blowers.”
He echoed Newsom on giving special attention to disadvantaged communities, urging a focus on clean-up efforts in ‘low-income communities of color, who have suffered the worst impacts of discrimination, disinvestment and pollution, and providing resilient infrastructure to those communities as they face an altered climate.”
Magavern noted that President Biden “has already reversed Trump’s illegal revocation of California’s authority to set clean-car standards, committed his agencies to environmental justice, and announced reductions in super-polluting gases.”
Energy Upgrade California is urging residents to cut down on electricity use between 4 p. m. and 9 p.m.
Kevin Slagle, spokesman for the Western States Petroleum Association, says his organization is aboard in the fight to alleviate the worst effects of climate change:
“When it comes to getting our future right, the stakes have never been higher,” he told Capitol Weekly. “We must aggressively develop additional sources of clean, affordable and reliable energy if we are to meet the needs of Californians equitably, meet our emissions goals and address climate change.”
The petroleum industry, he added, “will be key to long-term solutions. We are bringing innovation, investment and our best asset — our people — to solving the challenges we all face.’’
Energy Upgrade California, a consortium of the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission and public utility companies, is urging residents to cut down on electricity use between 4 p. m. and 9 p.m.
In all likelihood, such cutbacks are only part of what lies ahead for Californians as climate change settles in for a long stay.
Editor’s Note: Corrects Bob to Rob in 14th graf.