Planning for heat

Now is the time to begin adapting to global warming

Hotter temperatures, extended droughts, more wildfires, rising sea levels—these are some of the results Californians can expect from climate change in the 21st century. Two recent reports on global warming’s impacts on the state suggest that we need to get serious about preparing for the inevitable.

In April, the California Climate Action Team published a report analyzing new research on global warming’s likely effects on the state. Just last week, the United States Global Change Research Program issued its definitive report on the impacts on the country as a whole, including California and the rest of the Southwest.

Both reports indicate:

• Water supplies will become increasingly scarce and contentious.

• The Sierra snowpack will decline dramatically. Winter runoff will increase, leading to flooding—a particular concern in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, whose levees are highly vulnerable.

• Specialty crops such as almonds, apricots, olives and walnuts that require a minimum number of hours of winter chilling to become dormant and set fruit in spring will be adversely affected.

• Tourism based on winter recreation will decline.

• Increasing heat, wildfires, drought and invasive insects will devastate our forests.

• Demands for air conditioning will overburden the electricity supply, leading to brownouts and blackouts in the cities.

• Sea levels will rise by 11 to 18 inches by 2050 and up to 55 inches by 2100. This will have serious implications for coastal cities and beaches.

California has made strides in reducing its greenhouse-gas emissions, but global warming is going to continue regardless. What’s needed now is to begin developing adaptation strategies for dealing with it.

We here in the North State, for example, need farming strategies that reflect the new reality—strategies for reducing water use, especially, but also for dealing with warming’s impacts on current crops.

This will require all relevant agencies and groups—from county ag commissioners and farm bureaus to air quality management districts—to begin planning for the changes. Global warming is going to have profound impacts on the North State, but we can minimize them if we plan ahead.