OPC Climate Change Program
Our atmosphere and oceans are experiencing drastic change: they are warming up and changing composition, faster than ever recorded. This has consequences on a global and local scale. These consequences are becoming increasingly obvious: rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, ocean acidification, dead zones and invasive species. The impact on coastal communities is dramatic and will undoubtedly affect a vast number of people and industries.
California is one of the world leaders in both addressing climate change and protecting our coastal and ocean habitats and resources. Because of the value of California’s coastal areas and our reliance on the coast and ocean for recreation, food, and critical infrastructure, it is important to quantify how climate change will impact our ocean and coasts, and how we can best prepare for and conserve these valuable resources from changing ocean conditions. Understanding and addressing climate change is paramount to California’s work and milestones on ocean and coastal protection.
The Ocean Protection Council (OPC) was created by state law to protect ocean health, and we view all of our actions through the lens of climate change. The OPC works with its partners to implement flexible and agile approaches to respond to the evolving knowledge base and unanticipated changes when they occur. These include impacts to coastal communities by storms, erosion, and sea-level rise, and to ecosystems as a result of a changing climate.
OPC’s Climate Change program seeks to prepare for and reduce harmful impacts of climate change on ocean and coastal resources by encouraging adaptation and understanding of climate change, and engaging decision makers at all levels of government.
The Ocean Protection Council takes a leadership role in the following California climate change initiatives:
- California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment
The Fourth Climate Change Assessment is an inter-agency effort to implement a substantial portion of the State’s Climate Change Research Plan. The Climate Change Research Plan articulates near-term climate change research needs to ensure that the state stays on track to meet its climate goals. The Ocean Protection Council, with help from the California Ocean Science Trust, is leading the Coastal Sector of the Assessment. Find more information on the development of the Statewide Coastal Sector Report here.
- Safeguarding California
The California Natural Resources Agency has led the state’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy since 2008. This strategy, now called the Safeguarding California Plan which was recently updated in 2018, is the State’s roadmap for everything state agencies are doing and will do to protect communities, infrastructure, services, and the natural environment from climate change impacts. The Ocean Protection Council is the sector lead for ocean and coastal resources, and as such, is responsible for coordinating and implementing the actions recommended in the state’s climate action plan pertaining to oceans and coasts.
- Coastal and Ocean Working Group on the Climate Action Team (CO-CAT)
The Ocean Protection Council leads this working group comprised of senior level staff from California state agencies with ocean and coastal resource management responsibilities. CO-CAT’s task is to ensure the state’s ability to adapt to climate change impacts on ocean and coastal resources while supporting implementation of global warming emission reduction programs. The CO-CAT is a forum for state agencies to share information and coordinate on actions.
- State of California Sea-Level Rise Guidance Document
The Ocean Protection Council, in coordination with coastal and ocean state agencies and the Governor’s Office of Planning Research, led the development of the recent update to the State’s Sea-Level Rise Guidance Policy. This update incorporates advances in ice loss science and projections of sea-level rise, and includes guidance to address the needs of both state agencies and local governments. The Ocean Protection Council approved this Guidance in March 2018.
To learn more about the work OPC is doing on specific climate-related issues, click on the photos below.
Jenn Phillips, Climate Change Policy Advisor
Jennifer.Phillips@resources.ca.gov (916) 651-0237
Whitney Berry, CA Sea Grant Fellow (2018 – 2019)
Whitney.Berry@resources.ca.gov (916) 653-9416