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.
We take a leadership role in the following California climate change initiatives:
- Ocean-Climate Action Agenda
OPC and a committee of government and nongovernmental representatives developed the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda as a call to action for participants at the Global Climate Action Summit, held in San Francisco from September 12 to 14, 2018. The goals in this Agenda were developed to increase global attention on the importance of the ocean in achieving the vision of the Paris Agreement, and to focus global action on priority ocean-related climate mitigation and adaptation measures.
- Ocean-California’s Ocean-Climate Contribution
California’s ocean-climate contribution consists of the state’s mitigation and adaptation actions that either bolster resilience to climate change, reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, or both. California has long been at the forefront of ocean-climate protection, and in an effort to continue to support the Ocean-Climate Action Agenda and the Paris Agreement, California developed its ocean-climate contribution.
- Ocean Acidification Action Plan
Continuing California’s bold leadership on climate change, the State of California Ocean Acidification Action Plan articulates a 10-year vision for addressing ocean acidification and a series of pragmatic actions to work towards that vision.
- 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 OPC, 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.
- 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. OPC 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)
OPC 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
OPC, 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 2018 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.
Update January 2024: OPC is collaborating with Ocean Science Trust and a scientific task force to update the California Sea Level Rise Guidance. The updated guidance will expand upon the 2018 update. OPC will deliver an updated statewide guidance that includes: (1) an updated scientific understanding of statewide sea level rise and related coastal impacts (e.g. flooding); and (2) practical and pragmatic approaches for state agencies, local governments, and communities to use this new science across their respective planning efforts. This update aims to incorporate the most current scientific knowledge and improved planning and decision-making guidance to support preparedness for rising sea levels. The 2024 update has been released for public comment.
- State Agency Sea-Level Rise Action Plan
A five-year collaborative and coordinated roadmap for planning and implementing coastal resilience, created by the 17 state agencies within the Sea-Level Rise Leadership Team. View our Sea-level Rise Webpage for more information.
To learn more about the work OPC is doing on specific climate-related issues, click on the photos below.
Justine Kimball, Senior Climate Change Program Manager
Justine.Kimball@resources.ca.gov (650) 644-8303
Ella McDougall, Climate Change Program Manager
Ella.McDougall@resources.ca.gov (610) 698-3199