Climate Change

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Today's climate change reflects the warming of Earth’s surface based on temperature records dating back to the 1880s. Climate change is the result of human activities that emit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as carbon dioxide. The concentrations of carbon dioxide and other GHGs are currently higher than any other time in the past 650,000 years. These greenhouse gases stay in the atmosphere and act like a warm blanket by holding in heat — hence the term ‘global warming.’

The term ‘global warming’ is often used interchangeably with the term ‘climate change.’ The Earth’s climate is changing as a result of global warming. Recent research by scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the University of California, Merced and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, shows that California temperatures have jumped statewide by more than 2.1 degrees Fahrenheit between 1915 and 2000.

One of the biggest effects of rising temperatures is a shrinking Sierra snow pack. Sierra snowmelt is the largest source of California’s drinking and irrigation water. Disruption to the water supply means more droughts and less water for our cities and for farmers to grow their crops.

Higher temperatures also increase air pollution. Smog and soot that form from vehicle and power plant emissions pose a threat to public health, especially for children and seniors. Other effects include more frequent wildfires threatening our forests and our homes, such as those recently experienced by Southern California.

A study by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimates the world’s seas will rise more than 4.6 feet if global warming remains unchecked. This means that the coastlines of both San Francisco and Oakland could ultimately be under water and at risk for increased erosion.

In California, rising sea levels will cause increased salt water intrusion into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, potentially putting two-thirds of California’s water supply in jeopardy. In the capital city of Sacramento, and other cities in the Central Valley, the number of days per year over 95º F will increase from an average of 18 days/year to as much as 110 days/year.

Climate change is a serious threat to our health, our environment, and economy. The dangers of climate change include, but are not limited to, rising sea levels and shrinking snowpack, extreme drought and increased wildfires, extreme temperatures, catastrophic weather, species loss, increased disease, reduced growing seasons, threatened cultures, changing forests and loss of biodiversity. The dangers of climate change are cause for immediate action. If we do not begin now, more substantial, more disruptive, and more expensive change will be needed in the future.