Climate Mitigation and Adaptation News
April 22, 2015 - Happy Earth Day!
A biweekly newsletter of the Climate Readiness Collaborative.
 

 

California is not alone: 37 percent of the United States is now in drought, an 8 percent increase from this January. Snow packs are at record-low levels all across the West. April 1 typically marked a high in snow accumulation, but with an unusually warm March, snow melt is already well underway, further decreasing available streamflow later in the summer. For the second year running, California experienced its warmest-ever January-March period, exceeding the 2014 record by 1.8 F. If these trends continue, a warmer-than-average summer will exacerbate the ongoing drought. Visit www.saveourwater.com or http://bewatersmart.info, run by the Sacramento Regional Water Authority, for water-saving tips.  

News and Research
Deepest de-carbonization yet for U.S. electricity sector in 2015

Bloomberg predicts a continuing transformation of the U.S. electricity sector in 2015, due to a combination of environmental rules and incentives, low natural gas prices, and an aging coal fleet. Coal plant closures are expected to reach a high of 23 GW this year, which will be offset by record additions of renewable energy capacity, including 9 GW each of wind and solar power. Carbon emissions from the power sector are predicted to be 2 percent lower than 2014 levels and 15.4 percent below 2005 levels, reaching their lowest in 20 years (when the economy was 42 percent smaller). The emissions rate will reach its lowest in 60 years - the cleanest year on record. (Bloomberg)

California's electricity grid can handle 100% renewables, says regulators

The president of the California Public Utilities Commission says that the grid can safely handle variable flows of energy from 50 or even 100 percent renewable energy. Renewables have already generated 40 percent of electricity on a few occasions last year. By siting renewable energy generation close to power demand, the state can balance loads more easily and also sell off excess energy, which brought in $4 million in the first two months of 2015. (Bloomberg)

Los Angeles releases bold new 2035 sustainability plan
Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

In 10 years, Los Angeles plans to reduce per capita water use by 22.5 percent, stop using coal-powered electricity, and turn public library lawns into urban gardens. In 20 years, at least half of all journeys in L.A. will be taken on foot, by bike, or by using public transit. These ambitious goals are part of Los Angeles' new 2035 sustainability plan ("pLAn"). There are specific, measurable targets for each goal as well as a performance dashboard to track progress. The goals are divided into the areas of environment, equity, and economy, but many of them support more than one area, demonstrating the interconnectedness of sustainability and community resilience. (LA Times, read the pLAn)

How the drought is changing California forever

Dirty cars and brown lawns - or no lawns - may be the new future of California. While some communities are working hard to cut water use to as low as 32 gallons per person per day, other areas use nearly six times as much, demonstrating the challenge of achieving regulation in vastly different parts of the state. Landscaping generally consumes the most water for residents: Depending on the season and location, 40 to 70 percent of Californians' water goes toward lawns, gardens, and pools. In Cambria - the state's most water-thrifty community - residents cannot use potable water to wash cars or water gardens, instead using water they catch in the shower or from dishwashing. (Bloomberg)

Urban water use reduction targets updated for greater equity

The State Water Resources Control Board released a more tailored version of its draft regulations to reduce statewide water use by 25 percent, expanding from four to nine tiers of water cuts. Communities that have the highest per capita water use (over 215 gallons per day) will have to achieve the deepest reductions at 36 percent, while those using less than 65 gallons per day must cut use by 8 percent. Many of the highest-use water agencies are in Southern California, but 13 Sacramento-region water agencies are in the highest tier as well. The new regulations will go into effect on May 15. This February, residents reduced water usage by just 2.8 percent compared to 2013 - the worst performance since the state began urging conservation last June. (Draft Text)

Sacramento-area water agencies face higher cuts under updated regulations

Photo: Nick UT the Associated Press

The State Water Resources Control Board's updated regulations would require most Sacramento-area communities to make bigger cuts than previously, disappointing districts that had argued for hot weather, low density, and large housing lots to be taken into consideration. Most districts in the region used more than 165 gallons per capita per day in September 2014, above the state average of 124 gallons. All but two Sacramento-area communities will have to cut their use by 28 percent or more over 2013 levels. The state noted that trees should still be watered, due to their cooling and air quality benefits. (SacBee)

Experts predict earlier start to fire season due to drought

Firefighters from the Fairfield Fire Department and the Sacramento Metro Fire Department said that they are already seeing small spot fires that they would typically see in late May and early June, indicating bigger and more challenging fires to come. Seasonal staff hiring has already begun, while some staff never left for the winter, so the departments will be prepared. Fire agencies warned that homeowners need to do their part to maintain defensible space. (KCRA)

What if California's drought is permanent?

This Sacramento Bee editorial examines what steps the state might have to take should the current drought last decades or more. Suggested strategies include reforming the state's water rights structure, greater regulation of groundwater, and pricing water to better reflect its value, which may provide the right market signals for investment in water recycling and desalination facilities. (Sacramento Bee)

Melting Arctic could mean more persistent summer heat waves
Photo: NASA

As the Arctic warms faster than the rest of the northern hemisphere, the reduced difference in temperature between the pole and the mid-latitudes will weaken the jet stream and atmospheric circulation. As a result, there will not be enough circulation to bring in cooler air, resulting in more persistent weather patterns, including a greater likelihood of heat waves. Stagnant circulation is likely a factor in severe heat waves such as the 2010 event in Russia, which exceeded average temperatures by more than 18 F. (Washington Post)

Court rules tiered water pricing unconstitutional

A state appeals four ruled that San Juan Capistrano's tiered pricing structure for water violated Proposition 218, which forbids government agencies from charging more for a service than it costs to provide it. About 66 to 80 percent of California's water providers use some type of tiered pricing rate to encourage conservation. The decision may have important implications for the Governor's executive order requiring water providers to use price signals to incentivize conservation, as well as the State Water Board's draft reduction targets for local water agencies. One alternative may be to charge large consumers a penalty, a system used by Santa Cruz to achieve a 24 percent reduction from last summer. (San Jose Mercury News)

Resources and Tools
Federal government releases new tools and initiatives on climate and health

President Obama announced new tools, resources, and initiatives to address the health impacts of climate change through federal agencies and partnerships with other organizations. The tools include:

  • Center for Disease Control's (CDC) Adaptation in Action Report highlights how seven cities and states (including San Francisco and California) are identifying and adapting to climate health threats.
  • The CDC's Health Care Facilities Toolkit illustrates best practices for promoting resilient health care infrastructure. The Climate Resilience Toolkit also has 20 additional Federal tools related to climate and health and 10 case studies.
  • 150 new health-related datasets for the Climate Data Initiative  
  • The US Global Change Research Program's draft Climate and Health Assessment report synthesizes the best available scientific literature on the observed and projected climate impacts on health in the US. It is open for public comment and peer review.

In addition, many private companies have committed to action. Google will donate 10 million hours of advanced computing time on new tools, such as risk maps and early warning systems for wildfires and oil flares using Google Earth. Google's camera cars (which gather images for Google Maps' Street View function) will start measuring natural gas and methane emissions in some cities this year. The City of San Francisco is releasing a climate and health profile that will help identify vulnerable neighborhoods and prioritize health impacts. Four Twenty Seven will provide a climate-risk assessment for 100 health care facilities with large patient populations and deliver an interactive, public dashboard that identifies risk hot spots, drivers of risk, and impacts. (White House, USA Today, Washington Post)

Business Resiliency: A Key to Sustaining Regional Economic Vitality
Cleaner Air Partnership Quarterly Luncheon
Part 1: Business Resiliency: A Key to Sustaining Regional Economic Vitality

In case you missed it, here is a recording of the Cleaner Air Partnership's discussion on sustaining business resiliency in the Sacramento region. Listen to regional leaders from Valley Vision, Mulvaney's B&L Restaurant, and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District discuss a new initiative that will help to make the region's small- and medium-sized businesses better prepared for extreme weather and other natural disasters. 

Upcoming Events
Live Webcast - From Risk to Resilience: Fortifying U.S. Communities in the Face of Climate Change
Thursday, April 30, 9-10am PT

Resilience is a concept that has appeared with growing urgency in the lexicon of governments, industry, and the public as climate change has brought sea-level rise, extreme weather events, drought, and flooding to increasingly populated communities. Nationally, these hazards have wrought damage to the tune of $227 billion over the past four years. As these cities and towns seek to maintain their social, economic, and ecological integrity, the science of resilience continues to evolve with the progression of data and innovation. So how can municipalities manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable? Join the Center for American Progress, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Risky Business Project for a discussion about how new data sources, innovation, and risk management combine to make communities stronger and healthier in the long term. (Webcast)

Weathering Change: Local Solutions for Strong Communities Webinar Series (EPA and Antioch University)
Thursday, April 30, 9-10:30am

Communities face growing risks of more frequent and longer power outages due to extreme weather events, climate change, and other hazards. These challenges will disproportionately affect the most vulnerable people: the infirm, the aged, and the young. This webinar describes economical and effective strategies for making communities more resilient to disruptions of critical services, drawing on lessons learned in the field. (Register; the password is: resilience)

Communicating about Climate Impacts and Engaging Stakeholders in Solutions

Thursday-Friday, April 30-May 1, 9am-5pm

Tiburon, California

Need help developing effective climate messages for your audiences? Struggling to reach and motivate stakeholders to engage in outreach events? Climate and environmental communications expert Cara Pike from Climate Access will help you develop effective concrete framing and public engagement strategies in support of climate action and sustainability goals. Suggested attendees include planners, scientists, consultants, interpreters, communications staff, and regulatory agency staff. Cost $310. (Registration)

A Community Forum on Cap and Trade
Thursday, May 7, 6-8pm
Guild Theater, 2828 35th St., Sacramento

Learn about the cap and trade program and the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. Tell us how you'd like to see this money used to make your community a healthier place. Free but RSVP required. (Register)

UC Merced Climate Communication Workshop
May 13, 2015, 12-4pm
UC Merced, Student Services Building Room 130

Join the UC Merced Center for Climate Communication for an afternoon workshop on May 13, 2015, from noon to 4:00pm, to participate in a discussion of critical issues regarding California's agriculture industry, the ongoing drought's impact, and how to best communicate about these issues. Attendees will include UC Merced faculty from a diverse range of disciplines, including hydrologists, ecologists, and cognitive scientists, representatives from various government organizations, and members of the wider agricultural community. You may view a tentative draft program of the agenda here.

 

If you are interested in attending, please fill out this form.

Understanding Community Choice Energy: A Forum for California Local Governments
Monday, May 18, 2015
Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, CA

Join Community Choice Energy experts and local government leaders from around the state for a day of practical information, lessons learned, and information on how to get started with community choice energy. This day-long forum is being organized by the Local Government Sustainable Energy Coalition (LGSEC) in partnership with LEAN Energy US for local government decision-makers, staff members and key stakeholders. Visit lgsec.org/cca-forum for more information about this event.

 

This forum is intended for local policymakers and senior staff, community organizers and other market participants who are engaged in the successful implementation of CCA in California. Registration priority will be given to local government policymakers and senior staff.

National Adaptation Forum 2015
May 12-14, 2015, St. Louis, Missouri

The National Adaptation Forum is the biennial gathering of the adaptation community to foster information exchange, innovation, and mutual support. At the Forum, participants learn how to make their work climate-informed, share what they have learned with others, and develop a stronger network of collaborative peers. The 2015 program focuses on integrating adaptation into all activities and breaking out of silos to create holistic, durable solutions. (Register)

About the Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative

The Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative is a membership based collaborative network designed to promote greater climate change resilience planning coordination in the six-county Sacramento Region. The purpose of this collaborative network is to create a forum where leaders from government, academia, environmental and community groups, the business community, and labor can come together to exchange information, identify vulnerabilities and data gaps, leverage resources, and advance comprehensive solutions in an effort to create stronger, sustainable, and economically viable communities in the Sacramento Region.  If you are interested in learning more about the Climate Readiness Collaborative, joining the Collaborative, or being added to the list serve, visit: www.climatereadiness.info/