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Nature bats last. Some humans might like to think there are ways of handling her (see Mike’s post on Crazy Krauthammer today), but when she wants to swing and her bat consists of typhoons, tidal waves, floods, droughts, sub-zero blizzards, there is no way of catching that ball without some damage. In those situations, we generally concede and get out of her way. It’s hard to argue. And – setting aside the reasons why for the moment – can anyone argue that the weather effects experienced around the world have not become more severe?
Apparently some folks (Krauthammer!) are still trying to write it all off with the “Al Gore is Fat” rule of logic. Personally, I think it’s time to leave these climate change naysayers in the dust and develop a plan for dealing with the inevitable consequences. On the micro level, there are abundant resources for making our own habitat more sustainable. But what is happening at our local and state levels? Any plans for adapting to the changes that lie in store for us?
California, where I live, is vulnerable to rising seas, diminishing snowpack, and hotter temperatures. Fortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger recognized the dangers inherent in these changes – not least of which, in many views, to the California economy. In November 2008, the Governor directed state agencies to partner with the National Academy of Sciences and other research institutes to convene independent panels and complete adaptation strategies in the areas of: Public Health, Biodiversity and Habitat, Ocean and Coastal Resources, Water Management, Agriculture, Forestry, and Transportation and Energy Infrastructure. The nearly 200-page California Climate Adaptation Strategy was delivered to the Governor in 2009.
To produce the report, researchers examined the topical areas in terms of: future impacts, risks, and adaptation strategies and actions, both near and long term. The 200 pages cover an enormous amount of data; each report heading and sub-heading contain numerous examples and action plans developed under the assessment. In many cases, action plans and education are taken down to the local level.
So, the Governor was presented with a nice report – now what? Fortunately, CA is following its own advice; over the past year groups formed collaborations and developed adaptation protocols as part of the very near-term goals.
Who pays for all this research and implementation? California is pretty broke, right? One decent result emerged from the wreckage of electric utility restructuring in the mid-1990s: Public Interest Energy Research (PIER). Each CA gas and electric ratepayer contributes a small portion of the bill toward public purpose programs. These funds are administered and regulated by the CA Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and largely directed toward the CA Energy Commission (CEC), created in 1974 as the state’s primary energy policy and planning agency. CEC-PIER funds research, development, and demonstration projects in areas from global climate change to building efficiencies to electric grid transmission and most areas in between.
I see Jerry Brown’s smiling face at the top of the CEC home page now. As Governor, he’s likely to strengthen the commitment to actions that help our Golden State cope with the very real effects of global climate change.