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Climate, Air, and Energy

San Francisco Chronicle, November 15, 2008

Governor tells staff to prepare for warming
By Matthew Yi, Chronicle Sacramento Bureau

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an executive order Friday directing state agencies to study the effects of global warming and recommend how the state needs to adapt to such changes in land use planning and building new infrastructure.

"Given the serious threat of sea level rise to California's water supply, population and our economy, it's critically important that we make sure the state is prepared," Schwarzenegger said in a written statement.

The executive order was signed after a conference Friday in Long Beach on global warming and water infrastructure that was sponsored in part by the state Department of Water Resources, said Tony Brunello, a deputy secretary for climate change and energy for the state Resources Agency.

While California has embarked on an ambitious goal to reduce greenhouse gases that cause global warming, the effects of climate change - higher temperatures, less precipitation and higher sea levels - are inevitable, Brunello said.

Two years ago, Schwarzenegger signed the landmark legislation AB32, which requires the state to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2020. The California Air Resources Board, which has been charged with implementing AB32's goals, is set to consider Thursday its draft blueprint on how to limit California's greenhouse gas emissions.

"But even if we were to stop emitting greenhouse gases in California today ... the carbons that have already been emitted would still be with us and those impacts are still going to happen," Brunello said.

He said that while figuring out how to limit green house gas emissions has been receiving a lot of attention, how to adapt to the changing climate has been largely ignored. And while there are other states and nations that are researching how to adapt to the effects of global warming, Schwarzenegger's order is among the first directing agencies to put together a comprehensive plan, he said.

The executive order directs the Department of Water Resources, the California Energy Commission and the state's coastal management agencies to submit a request with the National Academy of Sciences for a sea level rise assessment report to be completed by Dec. 1, 2010.

The order also requires state agencies that build new infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, to factor in rising sea levels in their planning.

The governor also wants the California Department of Transportation to figure out which transportation projects would be vulnerable to the effects of climate change and has ordered that state agencies use a uniform standard in measuring the effects of climate change. He has also asked state agencies to develop a process on how to better coordinate planning efforts in the future.

Bill Magavern, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, said he agrees with the governor's notion that the state needs to prepare for climate change.

"He's doing the right thing by calling for sound science and coordination among different government agencies," he said. "As we see impacts like rising sea levels and diminishing snowpack, we're going to have to adapt."

© 2008 Hearst Communications Inc.

Photo © Paul S. Hamilton