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Climate Change and Coastal Communities: Facing the Rising Tide

As the water rises, a documentary maker ponders why people aren’t more concerned

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 producer Claire Schoen. The second part, “Facing the Rising Tide,” airs this evening at 8 pm on KQED Public Radio.

Opinion by Claire Schoen

Jan Sturmann

Steve Mello's family has been farming this land in the Delta for generations. Climate change may prevent his son from carrying on the family legacy.

I recently dug out an old letter which I had written to my Dad back in 1982. “Have you heard about this thing called Global Warming?” I asked.

Back in the 80’s, I was already aware of what is now referred to as “climate change.” So why is it that so few Americans understand this threat today?

In fact, America is in retreat on the subject. According to Pew Research, the number of Americans who believe the planet is warming dropped by 20 percent from 2006 (79%) to 2010 (59%). “Believe.” As if this scientific phenomenon were a belief system, a question of faith.

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A Few May Lose Big as Delta Changes: How to Contain the Cost

A new report warns that some islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta may not be worth saving.

California Department of Water Resources

Increased flood risk in the Sacramento/San Joaquin River Delta has people worried about the economic impact on the farmers and residents located there.

Here’s the bad news for Delta farmers: A new report concludes that the worst climate impacts on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta could affect a relatively small number of people — the farmers whose land is below sea level and protected by a vast system of levees. Maintaining and repairing those levees falls on local reclamation districts, which can’t necessarily count on state or federal bailouts in the event of catastrophic flooding in the future. It can be expensive if a levee breaks. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) studied the economic impacts of changes to the fragile Delta ecosystem and has produced some recommendations that are not likely to warm the hearts of some Delta landowners. Continue reading

Planning for the Other “Big One”

Imagine 45 days of rain brought by a series of winter storms so strong and wet that they turned the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea, making the state capital virtually inaccessible. 

Well, that happened in California in the winter of 1861-1862, and scientists say it will happen again, bringing massive flooding, landslides and property damage across the state.

To help emergency agencies plan for such an event, the US Geological Survey released the “ARkStorm Scenario” in Sacramento this week, detailing the repercussions of a storm that produces up to ten feet of rain and forces the evacuations of more than a million people.

“Vast floods would basically take out all the farm land,” said Marcia McNutt, director of the USGS. “They would destroy homes, animals would die, roads would be impassable, infrastructure would be rendered unusable, dikes would fail, levees, would fail.”

Scientists created this hypothetical storm by combining two actual storms, one from 1969 and one from 1986, and putting them back to back.  Together, they rival the 1860′s storm in magnitude, which was the last time California saw a storm this size.
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