Jeanne Merrill is the Policy Director for the California Climate and Agriculture Network.
The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) released earlier this month a unique report on the effects of climate change that the state is experiencing now. The report comes as a recent public opinion poll finds a record number of Californians want immediate state action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Many climate science reports project into the future what we may experience as greenhouse gases accumulate and heat up our planet. Such studies are critical to our understanding of climate change, but can make its impacts feel far and distant from our day-to-day.
But the most recent CalEPA report documents current climate change impacts that Californians are living with now. And the news has implications for all of us and especially for farmers and ranchers who are among the first to feel the effects of a changing climate.
Wildfires are increasing in intensity and frequency. Since 1950, annual acreage burned in wildfires statewide has been increasing. The state’s three largest fire years occurred in the last ten years.
Sea levels are rising. Over the last 100 years, measurement stations in the San Francisco Bay Area and La Jolla have measured a rise of 8 and 6 inches, respectively. Sea level rise threatens flooding of low-lying areas, saltwater intrusion of water supplies and infrastructure impacts.
Over the last century, snowmelt runoff that feeds our reservoirs is declining. The state is experiencing more precipitation in the form of rain instead of snow. The amount of snowmelt from April to June has declined about 9 percent with implications for water availability and wildlife.
Extreme heat events have increased in intensity, frequency and duration since 1950. Nighttime heat waves are especially increasing in all regions of the state.
Since 1950, we have experienced a decreasing number of winter chill hours, which are needed for fruit and nut tree production, critical California industries.
These and other climate change impacts can strain our communities, including the ability of farmers and ranchers to produce the food we rely upon.
Jeanne Merrill is the Policy Director for CalCAN.
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