Impacts of climate change in California significant and increasingly stark, new report says
Pioneering efforts to reduce climate change drivers are working, but climate adaptation and mitigation efforts must continue
From Cal EPA:
From record temperatures to proliferating wildfires and rising seas, California is already feeling the significant and growing effects of climate change, according to a new report released today that tracks 36 indicators of climate change and its impacts on the state.
The report documents the growing number of extreme weather-related events in recent years, such as the devastating 2017 wildfires and the record-setting 2012-16 drought. Some of the long-term warming trends underlying these events, including the rise in average temperatures and the number of extremely hot days and nights, have accelerated in recent decades, the report shows.
The report also tracks a variety of other climate change indicators: the declining snowpack and dramatic retreat of glaciers in the Sierra Nevada, unprecedented tree mortality in California forests, a rise in ocean temperatures off the California coast, and the shifting ranges of m any species of California plants and animals. These impacts are similar to those that are occurring globally.
“As California works to both fight climate change and adapt to it, it is critical that we understand the dramatic impacts climate change is already having in our state,” said California Secretary for Environmental Protection Matthew Rodriquez. “California’s climate leadership is unquestioned, and this report builds on the essential scientific foundation that informs our efforts to respond to climate change.”
CalEPA’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) compiled the 36 indicators of climate change, drawing upon monitoring data from throughout the state and a wide variety of research studies carried out by state and federal agencies, universities and research institutions.
“These indicators illustrate in stark terms how climate change is affecting our state, and the growing threat climate change poses to our future,” said OEHHA Director Dr. Lauren Zeise. “This report demonstrates the value of California’s extensive research and monitoring efforts, and is a valuable resource for state and local policymakers addressing critical climate adaptation and mitigation needs.”
One of the more positive outcomes discussed in the report is that despite an increase in the state’s population and economic output, California’s pioneering policies designed to curb emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) have led to an overall de cline in emissions as well as decreased emissions per capita and per dollar of its gross state product.
Additional key findings of the report include:
- Temperature: Average air temperatures have increased throughout the state since 1895, with temperatures increasing at a faster rate since the mid-1970s. The last four years were the hottest on record, with 2014 being the warmest, followed by 2015, 2017, and 2016. Nighttime temperatures have been rising faster than daytime temperatures.
- Wildfires: The five largest fire years since 1950 occurred in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012 and 2015. Preliminary data suggest that 2017, which included the deadliest and most destructive wildfires in state history (Sonoma and Napa counties) and the largest wildfire in state history (Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties), will rank as the second largest fire year in terms of total acreage.
- Drought: California is becoming drier, with unprecedented dry years in 2014 and 2015. The recent drought from 2012 to 2016 was the most extreme since instrumental records began.
- Sierra Nevada Snowmelt: The fraction of snowmelt runoff into the Sacramento River between April and July relative to total year-round runoff has declined, leading to less water available during the summer to meet the state’s needs.
- Species Migration: Pine forests now occupy less area statewide, while in certain parts of the state, oaks cover larger areas. About 75 percent of the small mammal species and over 80 percent of the bird species surveyed in the Sierra Nevada region have shifted ranges.
In addition, the report highlights a variety of “emerging climate change issues” that appear to be influenced by climate change but the link has not yet been conclusively established. These include a reduction in coastal and Central Valley fog, an increase in harmful algal blooms, and a rise in invasive agricultural pests. Additional data or further analyses will be needed to determine the extent to which climate change plays a role.
The report is one of two major state research efforts looking at climate change impacts in California. While the indicators report documents and measures impacts that have already occurred, another series of reports, California’s Climate Change Assessments, builds on these observations to make projections about future impacts that can inform state adaptation strategies. California is one of the few states to compile its own series of comprehensive reports on the impacts of climate change.
The full indicators report and a 15-pages summary are available at oehha.ca.gov/climate-change/document/indicators-climate-change-california.
A leader in the global fight against climate change, California is on track to exceed its target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. In 2016, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Senate Bill 32, setting the state on an ambitious course to reduce emissions an additional 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The state’s integrated plan for achieving that goal is outlined in the 2017 Climate Change Scoping Plan, adopted by the California Air Resources Board last year.
Release of the indicators report will be followed this summer by California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment and the California Adaptation Forum. The adaptation forum will provide a venue for leaders from all regions of the stat e to address the impacts detailed in the indicators report and the climate assessment. In September, Gov. Brown will host leaders from around the world at a Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco.
OEHHA is the primary state entity for the assessment of risks posed by chemical contaminants in the environment. Its mission is to protect and enhance public health and the environment by scientific evaluation of risks posed by hazardous substances.
Collaboration: The New Wave of Water Management
From the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District:
California’ s history is rich with tales of lawsuits, political clashes, midnight sabotage, even dynamite ignited in 1924 to disrupt the Owens Valley Aqueduct that now brings water into the homes of Los Angeles.
But in San Bernardino County- a region that once took on the Metropolitan Water District in a fight for independence- a pioneering dozen are doing things differently: joining forces for the greater purpose of storing water for the future.
This is a group that for 100 years had grappled over water rights, sharing a long and storied history of clashes, lawsuits and adjudication. Today, when other regions of the state wrestle to meet collaborative mandates under the Groundwater Sustainability act of 2014, the San Bernardino Valley has been working together voluntarily- putting more than a century of experience into best practices for determining how to fairly distribute a region’s most precious natural resource.
The players- San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District, San Bernardino Municipal Water Department, East Valley Water District, Bear Valley Mutual Water Company, Yucaipa Valley Water District, Loma Linda University and the cities of Loma Linda, Rialto and Colton, (with West Valley Water District and Redlands expected to join soon) – have learned from the past and recognize that the best way to allocate resources is to draw from science; to calculate past, current and future needs and develop a formula that ensures that everyone gets what they need and at the right price.
Most of these agencies formed the San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council this year for the shared purpose of ensuring there are funds available to purchase water in wet years, and facilities in place to store it underground. All this was accomplished in an effort to sustain the region’ s water needs now and long into the future.
This has come about from their long history together- fighting at times, but coming together in periods of need.
They have become practiced at sharing during dry times.
Each member of the council contributes water or funding to purchase and recharge groundwater to keep the basin at its optimum level. The allocation and cost is determined according to use, historic rights, conservation, water recycling and other factors developed over a year of open exchanges of concerns and information. Those that need more water, pay more. It’ s a method that ensures capacity for each entity, but does not penalize those who conserve.
Some might say it’ s best for water districts to protect and serve only their own customers’ interests. Why work with others when they might be taking the very resources you hope to claim for yourself?
Because the groundwater basin is a shared resource, the responsibility for managing it in a practical way must be shared, too. Collaboration gives any cause more power, and with so many local agencies contributing their share to the basin, the amount of imported water being recharged each year is at record highs.
The San Bernardino Basin Groundwater Council is a model for what water agencies large and small can do to help resolve California’ s water challenges.
It reflects a practical and cooperative spirit of hard work and honest negotiations that help to resolve the region’ s larger issues of balancing habitat and water promised to communities, ensuring safe drinking water gets to all communities, finding solutions to long-term droughts and addressing aging infrastructure.’
Given the dire conditions facing our state, it’s time to put down our weapons and work together to resolve our critical water issues.
Trust is built over time. Relationships like these take a while to come into being, but they start with that small but hopeful first step.
Douglas Headrick is general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District; Daniel Cozad is general manager of the San Bernardino Valley Water Conservation District
Department of Water Resources Announces New Deputy Director
From the Department of Water Resources:
The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) today announced the appointment of Kristopher A. Tjernell as Deputy Director of the Integrated Watershed Management Program.
In this newly created executive position, Tjernell will be responsible for advancing policies and programs that integrate and provide multiple benefits including flood management, local water supply and ecosystem restoration elements. Tjernell will oversee the Division of Integrated Regional Water Management, the Division of Statewide Integrated Water Management, the Climate Change Office and DWR’s EcoRestore Program.
“Kris brings a broad and reputable water policy background to his new assignment. He has been instrumental in achieving measurable success for the California Water Action Plan, California EcoRestore and habitat restoration across the state,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “I’m thrilled to have Kris join DWR’s executive branch – he’ll be a great addition to the team.”
In January, DWR created two executive-level programs from the Integrated Water Management Program. Eric Koch was announced Deputy Director of Flood Management and Dam Safety. Koch also served as Acting Deputy Director for the remaining divisions under the Integrated Water Management umbrella. With today’s announcement, Tjernell assumes responsibility for those divisions.
In 2014, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Tjernell to the position of Special Assistant for Water Policy at the California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA). Prior to his appointment with CNRA, Tjernell was a policy consultant at the Conservation Strategy Group where he specialized in integrated water management, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta restoration and governance, ESA/CESA issues, land conservation, water supply, ecosystem conflict resolution and public finance.
Tjernell graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
Jason Peltier to Lead New Chapter in Coalition for a Sustainable Delta’s Efforts
From the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta:
Today the Coalition for a Sustainable Delta (CSD) announced the appointment of Jason Peltier as its new Executive Director, bringing enhanced leadership and tremendous experience as the Coalition expands its role in addressing and acting upon California water management, ecosystem improvement and the myriad of Bay-Delta issues.
The Coalition has long been an effective voice in Delta issues and a leader in addressing key Delta stressors such as harmful ammonia discharges and predation by non-native species. The Coalition continues to confront a system of policies and regulations that have failed to improve our fisheries, while certainly harming the social and economic fabric of California
“We are very excited to have someone with Jason’s experience leading our renewed and expanded efforts on California’s most challenging water issues,” said Bill Phillimore, Coalition for a Sustainable Delta President. “His leadership, knowledge and relationships will be an asset to these critical efforts.”
A resident of the Delta, Peltier brings a lifetime of work in water management and an intimate understanding of Delta issues that will allow the organization to evolve and expand efforts in the region. Most recently, Peltier served as the Executive Director of the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority and the Deputy General Manager of Westlands Water District prior to that. He also served for six years as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C. as part of the management team responsible for the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Geological Survey. Peltier was raised on a diversified farm in Kern County, he received his Bachelor of Science in Agriculture from Chico State and is a graduate of the California Agricultural Leadership program.
Peltier’s background uniquely qualifies him to position CSD as a leader in an evolving era of increased collaboration. CSD will remain focused on the many Delta stressors that continue to plague the region, while working to increase cooperation between water users, NGOs and government stakeholders. In addition, the Coalition will work to promote and implement projects that will make a difference in Delta ecosystems that benefit fisheries and water users.
“For generations, competing interests have been battling in the Delta while the status quo continues to deteriorate for all,” said Peltier. “We have recently seen in our collaborative science efforts that government, NGOs and water agencies can work together constructively. That collaboration can be expanded to expediting actions to solve fishery and water problems. I’m looking forward to a new opportunity to help solve an old set of challenges.
Peltier will be based in Sacramento.
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About News Worth Noting: News Worth Noting is a collection of press releases, media statements, and other materials produced by federal, state, and local government agencies, water agencies, and academic institutions, as well as non-profit and advocacy organizations. News Worth Noting also includes relevant legislator statements and environmental policy and legal analyses that are publicly released by law firms. If your agency or organization has an item you would like included here, please email it to Maven.