adaptation

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Filling the Gaps in Oakland’s Climate Plan

Study could help city prepare for impacts already on the way

Craig Miller

Oakland aims to shrink its carbon footprint by more than a third. But what about preparing for impacts already on the way?

The City of Oakland is forging a comprehensive Energy and Climate Action Plan aimed at mitigating climate change. Even by California standards; it’s ambitious, calling for a 36% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels by 2020 (statewide emissions decreased 5.3% between 2005 and 2009, the most recent year for which numbers are available). It also lays out the policies and programs needed to make it happen. What the plan doesn’t answer is how the city will cope with the climate change that has already been set in motion.

Enter a study prepared by Oakland’s Pacific Institute for the California Energy Commission, published in July but not widely circulated until this month. It fills in the holes in the city’s approach by advancing “climate adaptation planning,” in which local governments prepare for dealing with climate change on a short-and-long-term basis and across all segments of the population. Continue reading

12 Million Californians ‘Highly Vulnerable’ to Climate Change — Now What?

Color-coding climate risks in the Golden State

Tim Walton / Photo One

Wildfires can leave little to salvage for homeowners caught in harm's way.

Climate change will disproportionately affect California’s most disadvantaged and isolated communities, according to a recent report from the Pacific Institute.

By looking at a broad array of factors – from social indicators such as income and birth rates, to environmental ones such as tree cover and impervious surfaces – the Oakland-based think tank has found that 12.4 million Californians live in census tracts with high “social vulnerability” to climate change.

This vulnerability can play out in various ways, says Heather Cooley, co-director of the institute’s water program and a lead author of the report. “In low-income communities, many people may not have insurance,” Cooley told me. “So when a flood or fire hits their homes, they may not be able to rebuild. If they’re suffering from a heat-related illness, they may not be able to seek treatment and their health may deteriorate as a result.” Continue reading

Zooming in on L.A.’s Warming Climate

First-of-its-kind study breaks down predictions for 27 L.A. microclimates

Kimberly Ayers

Green roofs like this one at Vista Hermosa City Park are part of the solution for Los Angeles

Listen to the radio version of this story on The California Report.

The City and County of Los Angeles now have customized climate predictions, thanks to a new UCLA study that took global climate science and made it local. A UCLA supercomputer ran for eight months to downscale 22 different global climate models, distilling them into a surgically precise look at L.A. County and beyond. It’s a new kind of Hollywood close-up and it’s a sobering one: temperatures will rise in areas of Los Angeles County by an average of 4 to 5 degrees by mid-century.

Commissioned by the city of Los Angeles, funded by a U.S. Department of Energy grant and conducted by UCLA’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science, the study focused on forecasting for the metro area between 2041 and 2060. But instead of relying on the global climate model grids that use data from 100 kilometer-square cells of the earth’s surface, the UCLA team’s “quintillion-plus” calculations — yes, that’s with 18 zeros — zoom in to a resolution of 2 square kilometers, just over a square mile.  So instead of data and forecasting for the whole county, you can talk specifically about climate change for Corona, for example. Continue reading

Coastal Erosion in SF Prompts Planning and Debate

City planners are looking at ways to reconfigure the city’s western edge

Sigma./Flickr

One of the challenges for the Ocean Beach Master Plan is how to slow the erosion of Ocean Beach's sandy cliffs.

San Francisco’s Ocean Beach is eroding; that’s not up for debate. But planners are still figuring out the best way to handle the erosion that’s already happening, and how to prepare for sea level rise. And that’s going to take a lot of planning: Ocean Beach itself is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, managed by the National Park Service, but there are also the nearby residential neighborhoods to consider; plus the Great Highway, a wastewater treatment plant, the parking lot at the beach, endangered species, surfers, dog walkers and the occasional hopeful sun bather.

The Ocean Beach Bulletin, a local news site and one of KQED’s News Associates, has been covering the development of the new plan for San Francisco’s coastline, called the Ocean Beach Master Plan, which will attempt to address erosion and rising sea levels, while balancing the myriad social and environmental needs.

Over the weekend, the New York Times weighed in, too:

Continue reading

Climate Adaptation and Unintended Consequences

Radio documentary explores the social and economic impacts of adapting to climate change

Rising seas will irrevocably change life near the San Francisco Bay. That’s the premise of RISE: Climate Change and Coastal Communities, a three-part documentary by independent producer Claire Schoen. The final part, “Chuey’s Story,” airs this evening at 8 pm on KQED 88.5 FM.

By Claire Schoen

Jan Sturmann

Chuey Cazares works as a fisherman out of the South Bay town of Alviso. Adapting to climate change may save his town, but it's having unintended consequences for his livelihood.

There’s an old adage that goes something like this: “The human capacity to create technology exceeds our capacity to understand its impact.”

Lots of people have referred to this idea, Einstein perhaps most famously when he said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.” Splitting the atom certainly brought us the promise of unlimited energy to run industry and military might to protect the world from Hitler. It also brought us a nuclear North Korea and Fukushima.

Continue reading

San Francisco Plans for Sea Level Rise

Ocean Beach could be in big trouble without some serious planning

Andrew Whalley

By Jon Brooks

As more warnings go out to coastal communities about rising sea levels, local planners are starting to sharpen their pencils. Hence the Ocean Beach Master Plan. The San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association (SPUR) is facilitating a coordinated effort among multiple agencies to create a “sustainable long-range plan” for San Francisco’s shoreline. Why do we need a plan? Because erosion of the beach and anticipated rising sea levels may necessitate major changes in the infrastructure that serves the area.

In September, economist Philip King of San Francisco State University unveiled a study aimed at putting estimated price tags on potential economic losses from sea level rise, a study in which San Francisco’s Ocean Beach emerged as a major potential loser. Continue reading

Can a Changing Climate Make You Fat?

PRBO Conservation Science

Anna's Humminbird

Maybe… if you’re a bird.  

You may have heard that climate change is affecting the size of habitats, but did you know that it may also be changing the size of organisms themselves?

A new study finds that songbirds in central California are getting bigger.

The report, published this month in the journal Global Change Biology, looked at the wingspan and weight of thousands of small birds in the region, such as finches, robins, swallows and hummingbirds, and found that over the last 30 years size has increased from .02 percent to .1 percent annually.

Researchers at PRBO Conservation Science looked at data for 73 species, combing 40 years of data from Point Reyes National Seashore and nearly 30 years of data from Milpitas. Continue reading

The Easy Fix That Isn’t

Touted as a simple way to combat climate change, white roofs may actually increase global warming, according to a new Stanford study. 

NNSA/flickr.

Installing white roofs (or painting them white) has been promoted as a way to help slow global warming. New research shows that white roofs may actually add to global warming.

By Alyson Kenward

If you’re interested in staving off climate change without trying too hard, painting your roof white seems like a complete no-brainer. It’s far cheaper than trading in your SUV for a Prius, and it turns the laws of physics to best advantage. Dark roofs absorb sunlight that heats up your house, office tower, or apartment building. That means you’re bound to crank up the energy-intensive air conditioner to keep pace in the summer months — and since electricity in the U.S. comes largely from fossil fuels, the net result is more heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions, and more global warming.
Continue reading

California Governor Plans Year-End Climate Conference

Brown administration urges local preparations for climate impacts

Kimberly Ayers

Coastal communities need to ponder the future of homes like these in Redondo Beach.

California Governor Jerry Brown is picking up the climate baton from his predecessor, planning his first climate conference. According to officials, Brown will host  the Governor’s Conference on Confronting Climate Change, currently pegged for December 15th at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco.

The conference is still taking shape but recent remarks from the administration seem to imply that the focus will be on planning for climate change impacts. “We have to move from planning to action…and we are behind,” says Julia Levin, Brown’s deputy secretary for climate change and energy at the California Natural Resources Agency. Continue reading

Sea Level Rise Laps at Developers’ Feet

 


Google Maps image of the Bay Area from Cal-Adapt’s online interactive sea level rise tool.

Developers building on the shore of San Francisco Bay will now have to consider climate change in their plans.

Despite a unanimous vote on Thursday by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), it hasn’t been easy planning process for the state agency that regulates development along the San Francisco Bay shoreline. The state agency approved a first-of-its kind policy that makes sea level rise part of regional planning decisions.

“It’s kind of like childbirth,” said Will Travis, the Executive Director of the commission.

“It wasn’t an easy thing to get done,” he said. “Some didn’t even believe that climate change was happening, and some weren’t aware of the great impact that sea level rise will have the Bay Area.” Continue reading