Lawmakers want more focus on adaptation

“California must focus more on adapting to climate change, a state Senate committee chairman said yesterday.

“We know that there is an ever-growing body of scientific research that the climate is warming and that this changing climate is having a serious impact on California,” state Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D) chairman of the state Senate Environmental Quality Committee, said at a hearing yesterday.

“Already we’ve seen rising sea levels, an increase in average temperature, diminished snowpack, and the list goes on,” he said. “The frequencies of theses extreme events, such as the heat waves, wildfires, floods and droughts, also is increasing.”

The state’s five-year drought resulted in $2.7 billion in total economic losses, he said. In addition, seven of the 10 largest wildfires in state history happened in the last decade.

He has offered S.B. 262, a measure he plans to revise in the coming weeks to set up a one-stop shop for adaptation policies.

Wieckowski also wants to create a centralized location for funding, although that wouldn’t be included in S.B. 262. That would need to come in the budget process.

There’s been some funding for adaptation, Wieckowski said, but it’s been scarce and inconsistent from year to year. He noted that the state in its proposed budget contains $800 million in funding for fire suppression. At the same time, he said, there’s $160 million for keeping forests healthy.

Wieckowski in 2015 authored S.B. 246, a measure that created the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program. It coordinates and maintains the State Adaptation Clearinghouse of information. But more work needs to be done, he said.

Some speakers at the hearing said increased coordination on adaptation is needed.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D) asked about the California Coastal Commission and its policies on “managed retreat.” He did not elaborate, but that state agency — which oversees development along the state’s lengthy coastline — has policies limiting seawalls, depending on when homes were built. Managed retreat generally refers to removing structures in order to save the sandy beach.

“I’m getting a lot of concern” from residents, Hill said.

Keali’i Bright, deputy secretary for climate and energy at the California Natural Resources Agency, said that “in many ways, that is the perfect example” that will force the state to examine coordination. “We don’t have a state policy on retreat or seawalls. We do many of these things in piecemeal ways.”

As well, there are trade-offs between adaptation measures and the desire to cut greenhouse gases. For example, desalination or groundwater banking can increase water supplies, but both use a lot of energy, said Andrew Jones, program domain lead at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Wieckowski and others noted that there are updates to scientific research that present different estimates on sea-level rise, for example. Many city sewage plants are located near the coast, he said.

He asked: What happens when you’re planning for 3-foot surge and you get a 4-foot surge?

“The science keeps changing,” with some impacts increasing, Wieckowski said. “It’s a moving target.””

Click here to read more from Climate Wire .

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