CA Considers Setting Climate Change Parameters

By Published On: September 11, 2009

Government officials, scientists and economists warned of growing global warming impacts, and the rising cost of inaction during a three-day symposium this week. “We have talked a lot but done very little,” noted Chris Field, Stanford professor and chair of a working group of the International Panel on Climate Change. The shortage of action is multifaceted, according to speakers at the annual Climate Change Symposium sponsored by state agencies. It includes a shortage of research funding, uncertainty over the definition of adaptation, and indecision over how much to spend on strategies for adapting to a warmer world--ranging from more levies to moving threatened species--and curbing carbon dioxide emissions. “We need a whole lot of clarity as to how to deal with adaptation,” said Adrienne Alvord, consultant to Senator Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills). That includes, Alvord added, figuring out the difference between adapting to climate change and dealing with “run-of-the-mill disasters, including drought, wild fires, and disease vectors.” Her boss authored the state’s climate protection law, AB 32. Speakers also addressed attainable and hoped-for strategies for reducing Earth’s fever. Mary Nichols, California Air Resources board chair, highlighted the importance of reaching a 33 percent alternative power standard. She added that reducing the state’s carbon footprint also requires lowering energy demand and maximizing efficiency “in every way, shape and form.” Mitigation also includes accurately measuring and verifying claimed carbon reductions and tackling the release of other greenhouse gas emissions, as well as particulate matter. Nichols noted her agency is working on reducing the release of potent refrigerants as well as black carbon, which is a form of soot. Particulate matter, or soot, exacerbates climate change and also is detrimental to human health. Others urged increasing low carbon-producing electricity and energy efficiency in commercial and industrial buildings, which use about 85 percent of the state’s electricity. Electricity use in commercial and industrial structures is expected to rise because of higher use of chemicals, plastics, and rubber. A 200 to 400 percent growth is predicted between 2006 and 2050, according to Mike Ting, Itron senior energy consultant. “Investing early brings costs down,” said Snuller Price, principal with E3. He called for expansion of clean electricity and support for new and emerging technologies in areas including energy efficiency, battery storage, and biofuels. Other climate protection strategies promoted were the expansion of cool and white roofs and pavements, which reflect the sun’s rays instead of absorbing them. Reducing soot from fossil fuels and biofuels, which exacerbate climate change and are detrimental to human health, was also addressed. Many of the climate change impacts--including shrunken water supplies and agricultural yields and rising sea level and eroding coastlines--were highlighted as in previous annual climate change symposiums but with more specificity this year. Sea level rise is expected to impact the coast and lead to significant erosion. The state’s principal water supply from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, which converge in the Delta, is expected to decrease and suffer higher salinity. Water supply operations are expected to face drought like conditions on par with 1977, hitting every seven years by mid century. They may strike every three years by the end of this century, according to Francis Chung, Department of Water Resources’ chief of modelling support. Chung also estimated that by mid century the water supplies and exports to Southern California could be 5-10 percent lower. By the end of the century, a 25 percent decrease in water exports is estimated.

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