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Climate Action Team Report Documents Impacts of Climate Change on California

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The draft Climate Action Team Report, an update of a 2006 assessment, concludes that without action, severe and costly climate change impacts are possible across California. The report uses updated, comprehensive scientific research to outline environmental and economic climate impacts.

The document, now available for public comment, synthesizes 37 research papers written by world-class scientists from prominent universities and research institutions. Three additional papers are still undergoing peer reviews and will be considered for inclusion in the final report later this summer. The reports were funded, in part, through the California Energy Commission’s Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) program and represent the most comprehensive and detailed scientific information to date on climate change impacts to California.  

The research papers also serve as the scientific foundation on which the state is developing its first Climate Adaptation Strategy (CAS), and a chapter of the Climate Action Team report previews this work.  

The technical papers analyze such research areas as the impacts of sea level rise, higher temperatures, increased wildfires, decreased water supplies, increased energy demand, among others, on the state’s environment, industries and economic prosperity. Each of the papers has or will undergo peer review by technical experts in private, public and governmental entities. 

Impacts of climate change to California’s coast, agriculture, forest and communities have been known and studied for years; however the studies that support the Climate Action Team report suggest that actual greenhouse gas emissions are outstripping 2006 projections. Of particular interest are the several papers focusing on the impacts of a rise in sea levels to coastal communities and increased potential of wildfires to residential areas.

Key Findings:

  • Water Supply Impacts: A group of researchers at UC Davis investigated the effect of potential climate-induced reductions in water supply to the agricultural sector. One of their findings is that the lack of water would result in reductions in irrigated crop area contributing to the loss of agricultural lands in the Central Valley. Under the particular climate change scenario investigated, the researchers also found that changes in yields (mostly negative) and changes in water availability could result in gross revenues losses of up to 3 billion dollars by year 2050. (Source: Effect of Climate Change on Field Crop Production in the Central Valley of California; California Perennial Crops in a Changing Climate; Estimating the Economic Impacts of Agricultural Yield Related Changes for California)
     
  • Electricity Demand Impacts: To estimate potential impacts of climate change on electricity demand for the residential sector, researchers at UC Berkeley used a comprehensive household level billing data set for California.  This highly detailed study found much larger effects of climate change on electricity demand than previous studies. Statewide electricity demand may increase by up to 55 percent by the end of the century.   However, policies aimed at reducing the weather sensitivity of demand can play a large role in reducing future electricity demand. (Source: Impact of Climate Change on Residential Electricity Consumption)
     
  • Wildfire Risks: Scientists at the UC Merced and Pardee RAND Graduate School performed a novel analysis of wildfire risk in California. They estimated that wildfire risk would increase throughout the end of the century. Average annual monetary impacts due to home loss may plausibly to be on the order of 2 billion dollars per year by mid-century and up to 14 billion dollars per year by the end of the century. (Source: Climate Change, Growth, and California Wildfire; Potential Effects of Climate Change on Residential Wildfire Risk in California)
     
  • Ecosystem Impacts: The Nature Conservancy’s research has determined that California’s historic ranching culture, and a source of local, grass-fed beef, is at significant risk from climate change.  (Source: The Impact of Climate Change on California’s Ecosystem Services)

To view each of the draft papers and a list of authors, visit www.climatechange.ca.gov/publications/cat/.

For more information about the California Climate Action Team, see www.climatechange.ca.gov/climate_action_team/index.html.

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