When Mitigation Falls Short, Adapt

3042486968_0a474edd83_m.jpgWhile California has plans in place to reduce greenhouse gases, to mitigate the effects of climate change, it is only recently that the local governments have begun thinking about adaptation strategies, according to two reports released today by the PPIC.Preparing California for a Changing Climate” and “Climate Policy at the Local Level: A Survey of California’s Cities and Counties.” Both focus on what is being done currently to confront climate change and where the state and municipalities need to focus adaptation efforts, in order to prepare for future environmental changes.

According to Ellen Hanak, who co-authored both studies, while three out of  four California’s communities are “doing something” related to climate change, only half of that group is looking into adaptation strategies and developing plans for protecting community assets.

“The focus has been on bringing greenhouse gases down,” said Hanak. “Only recently have folks been looking into climate impacts.”

Adaptation is a critical element because even if the world does reduce emissions significantly, Californians still may face problems like sea level rise, increased wildfires and flooding, public health issues related to air quality and increased temperatures because of change that has already been set in motion.  The extent of these problems, of course, will depend on how successful we are with mitigation strategies.  The less successful we are at reducing greenhouse gases, the better we need to be at adapting to change.

Hanak sees the executive order issued by the Governor on Friday requiring state agencies to assess and plan for sea level rise due to climate change, which we blogged last week, as one positive step in this direction.  Because the order mandates an assessment of projected sea level rise, local governments will soon have a benchmark to use for planning their adaptation strategies.