California is vulnerable to increasing heat, melting snowpack, droughts, sea level rise and wildfires
California’s climate is already changing. Southern California has warmed about three degrees Fahrenheit in the last century and the rest of the state is becoming warmer. California can expect increasing frequency and intensity of heat waves, reduced snowpack, reduced rainfall and increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires due to drier conditions. Drought and increased heat especially threaten California’s agriculture industry.
- Increasing temperatures: The Southwest is already one of the driest and hottest regions in the US. Increasing temperatures will only exacerbate challenges already present such as heat waves, crop failure, drought, and reduced snowpack, posing increasing threats and costs to public health in New Mexico cities especially. A Risky Business report projects the number of days per year of temperatures at or above 95 degrees Fahrenheit will increase by 13 to 28 additional days by mid-century, and an additional 33 to 70 days by the end of the century. That’s one to two months of additional days of extreme heat for babies being born right now in this region. As heat waves become more frequent and intense due to climate change, Californians will be at greater risk of health impacts. The 2006 heat wave, a glimpse of what warming will bring, caused over 140 deaths.
- Melting Snowpack: Snowpack and streamflow are projected to decline in California, reducing the reliability of surface water for cities, farmers and ecosystems. Reduced water availability combined with increasing temperatures threaten crops and animal agriculture in California.
- Drought: Climate change is linked to California’s drought by two mechanisms: rising temperatures and changing atmospheric patterns conducive to diminishing rains. Together these mechanisms have contributed to severe and unprecedented drought in the state. Persistent hot and dry weather led to five years of acute drought in California from 2011 through 2016, an event worsened by climate change that cost the state over $3 billion in 2015 and 2016. Record breaking temperatures have been a key driver of the drought. A second climate-linked driver is the “ridiculously resilient ridge” of high pressure that has kept rain from the state.
- Wildfires: Climate change is exacerbating the ingredients that contribute to wildfires: heat, drought, and dead trees. All of these ingredients have increased the number and scale of wildfires in California. 14 of California’s 20 worst wildfires have occurred in just the last ten years. The increasing fire risk for California is a due to climate change. In just one year, (2015) wildfires cost insurers over a billion dollars, while total economic costs from 2015’s fires will be over two billion. The state has spent over $336 million fighting the fires in 2015 and 2016, a figure that doesn’t include economic costs.
- Adaptation: On November 14, 2008, Governor Schwarzenegger ordered the California Natural Resources Agency to develop a Climate Adaptation Strategy in coordination with local, regional, state and federal public and private entities.
California residents support clean energy and climate regulations
- According to the Yale Map Project on Climate Change Communication 75% of Californians recognize that global warming is happening. The project finds that 77% of residents support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant and 83% support funding research into renewable energy sources.
California leads in solar and wind energy
- California continues to be the leading solar market in the United States. An abundance of sun and supportive energy policies have created a strong solar industry. California ranked 1st in installed solar capacity in 2016, with 19,000 MW installed and over 4.8 million homes being powered by solar. The solar industry employs nearly 100,000 people in over 2,600 companies across the value chain.
- California led the world in wind energy development through much of the 1980s and 1990s. Currently the state ranks 4th in the nation for wind generation, with 5,656 MW of capacity installed. That’s enough to power 1.3 million homes. The wind industry provides 3,000-4,000 jobs in the state and is home to at least 12 wind-related manufacturing facilities.
- California passed a renewable portfolio standard in 2015 which requires utilities to generate 50% of their 2030 sales from renewable sources.
- California ranked third in the nation in oil refining capacity as of January 2016, with a combined capacity of almost 2 million barrels per calendar day from the state’s 18 operable refineries.
- In 2014, California’s per capita energy consumption ranked 49th in the nation; the state’s low use of energy was due in part to its mild climate and its energy efficiency programs.
- In 2015, California ranked fourth in the nation in conventional hydroelectric generation and first as a producer of electricity from biomass, geothermal and solar energy.
- In 2015, California ranked 15th in net electricity generation from nuclear power after one of the state’s two nuclear plants, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, permanently ceased operations in June 2013.
- California is a leader in clean tech, electric vehicles, energy efficiency and other measures.