Global Climate Change Report Affirms California’s Leadership
On August 9, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth report on global climate change. The report, which was written by 234 scientists from around the world, provides a sobering outlook for the planet as global temperatures continue to increase and signals an urgency for action now. Many changes observed are unprecedented, with some impacts – such as global temperature and sea-level rise – increasing at a pace not previously predicted by scientists.
The IPCC report asserts that even if the world’s population completely ceased greenhouse gas emissions immediately, what’s already been emitted will continue to affect the atmosphere for decades to come:
- The inevitable warming will result in greater coastal flooding, hastened coastal erosion, and the corresponding displacement and property damage;
- Ocean heat waves, which have doubled in number since the 1980s, will increase in frequency, killing fish, seabirds and other marine life, and wreaking havoc on entire ecosystems, including coral reefs;
- The average rate of global sea level rise almost doubled between 2006 and 2018; regardless of how quickly nations reduce emissions, a global average sea level rise of about 15 to 30 centimeters (6 to 12 inches) is anticipated by 2050;
- If we reach a global increase of 2 degrees Celsius or more – a probable outcome by the end of the century or sooner at our current emissions rate – the IPCC predicts the Greenland ice sheet could collapse, resulting in at least six feet of global sea level rise that would have even more severe consequences for coastal communities and ecosystems.
Although the findings in the report are alarming, the IPCC report authors also made clear that with the right kinds of collective actions, we can still avoid complete catastrophe. Fortunately, California has long been a leader in setting ambition greenhouse gas reduction targets while furthering climate change resiliency and adaptation:
- Governor Newsom’s proposed California budget calls for significant investments to address climate-driven impacts including wildfire, drought, extreme heat and sea-level rise;
- State and federal partners are moving to hasten offshore wind development, which will help achieve the state’s clean energy goals, bolster renewable energy sources and create new jobs and investments in California;
- The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) recently invested $8M in coastal resilience projects through Proposition 68 funding and $3.5 million in ocean acidification research and monitoring, along with efforts to reduce harmful impacts from ocean acidification and hypoxia. This aligns with OPC’s strategic imperative to safeguard coastal and marine ecosystems and communities in the face of climate change;
- California marine protected area network – unique in the nation – has the potential to provide ecosystem resilience in the face of climate change, as well as ensuring biodiversity;
- The California Coastal Commission calls for all coastal development to take sea level rise into consideration as part of city and county planning, helping to preserve our state’s treasured beaches into the future;
- California State Parks, the agency responsible for managing 25 percent of California’s coastline, has developed a Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy to adapt our shared and unique coastal natural resources to rising seas;
- An expert panel convened by the California Natural Resources Agency (CRNA) just released “Advancing 30×30: Conservation of Coastal Waters,” recommendations for protecting 30 percent of California’s ocean waters, from climate change impacts including marine heatwaves, ocean acidification and sea level rise.
To hold the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the nations of the world must work together to cease our reliance on fossil fuels and curtail greenhouse gas emissions – every action we take matters. From nature-based solutions to our sea level rise adaptation policies, California’s climate policies set an example to be embraced by policymakers around the world.