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Schwarzenegger Issues California Climate Adaptation Strategy

SACRAMENTO, California, December 3, 2009 (ENS) – California’s Climate Adaptation Strategy, the nation’s first comprehensive, multi-sector analysis of its kind, was released Wednesday. Developed in response to a 2008 executive order from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, the strategy is intended to strengthen the state’s management of global warming impacts such as sea level rise, increased temperatures, shifting precipitation and extreme natural events.

Climate change is already affecting California, the strategy report states. Sea levels have risen by as much as seven inches along the California coast over the last century, increasing erosion and pressure on the state’s infrastructure, water supplies, and natural resources.

The state has also seen increased average temperatures, more extreme hot days, fewer cold nights, a lengthening of the growing season, shifts in the water cycle with less winter precipitation falling as snow, and both snowmelt and rainwater running off sooner in the year.

Forest wildland fires are becoming more frequent and intense due to dry seasons that start earlier and end later.

“The state’s water supply, already stressed under current demands and expected population growth, will shrink under even the most conservative climate change scenario,” the report projects.

Almost half a million Californians, many without the means to adjust to expected impacts, will be at risk from sea level rise along bay and coastal areas, according to the strategy report. And as the Central Valley becomes more urbanized, more people will be at risk from intense heat waves.

From left, California Secretary for Natural Resources Mike Chrisman, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Emergency Management Agency Undersecretary Frank McCarton and Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt (Photo by Justin Short courtesy Office of the Governor)

The strategy report focuses on seven sectors – public health, biodiversity and habitat, ocean and coastal resources, water management, agriculture, forestry, and transportation and energy infrastructure – and makes recommendations for reducing climate risks to people, the environment and infrastructure.

Releasing the strategy on Wednesday on Treasure Island in San Francisco, Governor Schwarzenegger said, “There’s no single issue that threatens our planet’s health and prosperity more than climate change and this is why from the beginning of my administration we have fought and were very adamant about making sure that we do everything we can to fight global climate change.”

Enumerating his accomplishments, the governor mentioned bill AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which commits the state to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 percent by the year 2020 and an additional 80 percent by the year 2050.

California then approved the Tailpipe Emissions Standards and the world’s first Low-Carbon Fuel Standard, the Renewable Energy Standards, the Million Solar Roof Initiative and is building the Hydrogen Highway, said the governor. “So we have done a lot of work and continue doing a lot of work because we want to lead.”

He announced the creation of a Climate Adaptation Advisory Panel to will further assess California’s climate change risks and help develop a set of independent adaptation recommendations to implement Climate Adaptation Strategy.

In partnership with the Pacific Council on International Relations, the panel will address key hazards that are most likely to impact California as the climate changes are increased wildfires and extended fire seasons, rising sea levels along 1,100 miles of coastline, and the reduced availability of water with reduced snow pack in the Sierras and extended periods of drought.

The new panel, made up of 23 business, labor, government and private sector leaders, will develop recommendations for consideration by the governor and his administration, the Legislature and other stakeholders in July 2010.

Former California Governor Pete Wilson is a panel member as is former U.S. EPA Administrator Bill Reilly. The panel also includes John Bryson, former chairman, CEO, and president of Edison International, the parent company of Southern California Edison. Audrey Chang, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Climate Program is a panel member as is Jim Wunderman from the Bay Area Council.

At the news conference announcing the new strategy, Governor Schwarzenegger also unveiled two new Google-Earth based applications that will allow Californians to see the risks of climate change impacts in their communities.

The governor said, “I love the technology and I think, as I’ve always said, when it comes to fighting global warming and climate change it is technology in the end that will save us all.”

The Cal-Adapt prototype application will allow users to explore the risks of global warming in California and help make better-informed localized adaptation decisions.

Funded by the California Energy Commission and Google.org, the Stockholm Environmental Institute has also developed a website using the Google-Earth platform to display an interactive tour on climate change.

Unveiling the new applications Wednesday, Google Chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt said, “What we do is we try to provide tools that help people understand what’s happening. And Google Earth is a very useful tool to try to understand the world we love, the only world we have and what we’re doing to it.”

“What you can do with Google Earth is,” said Schmidt, “you cannot only see what we have done but you can also think and analyze and see the changes and see them ahead of the time when the changes are irreversible.”

These Google-Earth based applications are accessible through the state’s climate change portal at: www.climatechange.ca.gov/adaptation. The Climate Adaptation Strategy report and recommendations are at: www.climatechange.ca.gov.

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