Report to California Legislature: Prepare for sweeping effects of climate change

By Rachel Becker and Julie Cart, CalMatters : capradio – (excerpt)

Painting alarming scenes of fires, floods and economic disruption, the California Legislature’s advisors today released a series of reports that lays out in stark terms the impacts of climate change across the state.

The typically reserved, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office outlined dire consequences for Californians as climate change continues to alter most aspects of daily life. Much of the focus of the six-part series is detailing the economic cost as the changing climate alters where and how Californians build, grow food and protect the most vulnerable residents.

  • Wildfires, heat and floods will force more frequent school closures, disrupting education, child care and availability of free school lunches. More than 1,600 schools temporarily closed because of wildfires each year between 2017 and 2020, affecting nearly a million students a year.
  • Workers in outdoor industries like agriculture, construction, forestry and recreation — 10% of California’s workforce and mostly made up of Latinos — will continue to bear the brunt of extreme heat and smoke.
  • Wildfire smoke may have killed about 20 people among every 100,000 older Californians in 2020, and is projected to become more deadly. A 50% increase in smoke could kill nine to 20 more people among every 100,000 each year.
  • Housing, rail lines, bridges, ports, power plants, freeways and other structures are vulnerable to rising seas and tides. “Between $8 billion and $10 billion of existing property in California is likely to be underwater by 2050, with an additional $6 billion to $10 billion at risk during high tide.”
  • Extreme heat is projected to cause nine deaths per 100,000 people each year, “roughly equivalent to the 2019 annual mortality rate from automobile accidents in California.”
  • Lower-income Californians, who live in communities at greater risk for heat and floods because of discriminatory housing practices, will be hit especially hard by climate change and have fewer resources to adapt.
  • Housing will be lost: For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, 13,000 existing housing units and 104,000 job spaces “will no longer be usable” because of sea rise over the next 40 to 100 years.
  • Beaches will disappear, too: Up to two-thirds of Southern California beaches may become completely eroded by 2100.

The report’s unsaid but unambiguous conclusion: Climate change could alter everything, and spare no one in California, so legislators should consider preparing for sweeping impacts…(more)

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