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Climate Change in California: Risk and Response

Fredrich Kahrl
David Roland-Holst
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 168
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  • Book Info
    Climate Change in California
    Book Description:

    California is synonymous with opportunity, prosperity, and natural beauty, but climate change will certainly influence the state’s future. Changes will affect the economy, natural resources, public health, agriculture, and the livelihoods of its residents. But how big is the risk? How will Californians adapt? What will it cost? This book is the first to ask and attempt to answer these and other questions so central to the long-term health of the state. While California is undeniably unique and diverse, the challenges it faces will be mirrored everywhere. This succinct and authoritative review of the latest evidence suggests feasible changes that can sustain prosperity, mitigate adverse impacts of climate change, and stimulate research and policy dialog across the globe. The authors argue that the sooner society recognizes the reality of climate change risk, the more effectively we can begin adaptation to limit costs to present and future generations. They show that climate risk presents a new opportunity for innovation, supporting aspirations for prosperity in a lower carbon, climate altered future where we can continue economic progress without endangering the environment and ourselves.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95380-2
    Subjects: Physics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The Golden State: so much of the ethos of California, in the minds of those who live here and around the world, suggests opportunity, prosperity, and natural beauty that it is difficult to imagine a future of hardship and adversity. Even in the worst time of modern American economic history, the dust bowl era, California was a beacon for countless migrants seeking a better future. Today we a face a new global threat from climate change, one that portends dramatic adjustments in our natural world and the way we live in it. How will California and its economy adapt, and...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Economic Perspectives on Climate Adaptation
    (pp. 13-29)

    Scientific evidence has established a connection between economic behavior and climate change, primarily through the use of carbon-based energy sources in pursuit of higher material living standards. Over the last two centuries, domestication of carbon fuels for industrialization has conferred on a large share of humanity living standards that would have been beyond the imagining of their forebearers. Recently, however, we have awakened to the fact that this Promethean gift is changing the natural world in fundamental and adverse ways. This unintended negative externality has given rise to what is often called the “mitigation agenda,” a local, national, and global...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing
    (pp. 30-45)

    Agriculture, forestry, and fishing have long been fixtures in California’s culture, politics, and economy. In the modern era, however, the three have a more limited economic role, accounting for about 1.5 percent of California’s gross state product (GSP) and just over 3 percent of the state’s labor force.¹ Despite this, agriculture, forestry, and fishing have important cultural, environmental, and economic values that are not captured by simple macroeconomic metrics. The nation’s largest farm producer since the late 1940s,² California now accounts for nearly half of all U.S. fruit, nut, and vegetable production.³ About one-third of California’s land area is covered...

    (pp. 46-62)

    California’s history over the last two centuries has been inextricably intertwined with water scarcity and rivalry, challenges made inevitable by the uneven temporal and spatial distribution of the state’s water supply and demand. Most of California’s water arrives as winter rains that feed rivers in the north, whereas water demand is highest during late spring and summer in the southern part of the state. Compounding this problem is high year-to-year variability in precipitation, with California regularly oscillating between droughts and floods. To overcome these spatial and temporal mismatches, the state has developed an extensive system of water storage and conveyance,...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Energy
    (pp. 63-78)

    Energy is the prime mover behind California’s diverse economy, powering everything from lab equipment in state-of-the-art research facilities, to transport and logistics that facilitate global trade, to kitchens in some of the world’s finest restaurants.

    Climate change has the potential to impact every component of California’s energy supply chains, from resources and transport to conversion, distribution, and use. Government agencies, businesses, and households will also need to adapt the state’s energy systems and use patterns to a changing climate at the same time that the state attempts to meet aggressive goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from energy use.


  10. CHAPTER FIVE Transportation
    (pp. 79-89)

    Transportation infrastructure provides essential supporting services for California’s economy and society. Within the state, air, rail, water, and truck transportation accounts for more than $20 billion of California’s gross state product.¹ Trade, a core part of the state’s economy, has grown in importance along with Asia’s economic rise over the last several decades, as California’s ports and freight infrastructure provide a convenient gateway for U.S. exports and imports.² California is also a highly automotive society, dependent on roads, bridges, and other publicly supported transportation services.

    Climate and weather have disproportionate impacts on transportation systems. Landslides damage roads and disrupt traffic....

  11. CHAPTER SIX Tourism and Recreation
    (pp. 90-99)

    With the state’s celebrated combination of beaches, vineyards, winter sports, national parks, and theme parks, tourism from all over the world is an important contributor to the California economy. The California Travel and Tourism Commission estimates that direct travel spending in California was $96 billion in 2010.¹ A significant portion of tourism in the state is undertaken by California residents, and we add recreation to the title of this chapter to emphasize that fact.

    Many of California’s top travel destinations are dependent on natural resources, including its beaches, rivers, mountains, vineyards, golf courses, and national and state parks. Climate change...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Real Estate and Insurance
    (pp. 100-114)

    For the last two decades, real estate has been at the core of the California economy, nearly 50 percent larger than any other sector and accounting for one-sixth of gross state product (GSP), or $281 billion in 2009.¹ A significant portion of California’s building stock is in high-risk areas, in earthquake zones, on the fire-prone wildland-urban interface, in floodplains, and along the coast. Although California has extensive experience dealing with earthquakes, climate change presents a different set of challenges, some familiar and some new, but all serious threats to the state’s largest asset class.

    Because of its high value, residential...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Public Health
    (pp. 115-124)

    Globally, effects on human health may be one of the most visible and provocative consequences of a changing climate. A joint commission fromThe Lancetand University College London referred to climate change as “the biggest global health threat of the 21st century.”¹ Although perhaps in less dramatic fashion, climate change will exacerbate existing public health challenges for California, even as it creates new ones.

    Californians already have the worst air quality in the United States,² with the number of deaths from air pollution on par with those from traffic fatalities and secondhand smoke.³ The California Air Resources Board estimates...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Revelation or Revolution? How California Can Adapt and Even Benefit from Climate Change
    (pp. 125-128)

    This book examines the economics of climate change in California based on a comprehensive review of relevant research across seven sectors of the state economy. Like the seven seals on the Book of Revelation, each of these cases reveals a different dimension of one overarching threat to our well-being, changes in the natural environment that will have profound and lasting adverse consequences if we do not respond appropriately. Climate change is not only inevitable, it is already happening. Unlike a prophecy, however, its consequences are not inevitable and they can be significantly mitigated by human and institutional adaptation. We can...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 129-154)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 155-156)