Bay Area climate change report raises issues of wildfires, heat waves, water

Shaun Lien/Staff

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UC Berkeley researchers released a report detailing current and future effects of climate change on the Bay Area on Monday morning.

The San Francisco Bay Area Region Report was one of many reports released during the California Adaptation Forum. The main message of the report was that “serious climate impacts” are affecting Bay Area and California residents, and such impacts are going to get worse in the next few years, said Bruce Riordan, co-author of the report and program director of UC Berkeley’s Climate Readiness Institute, or CRI.

“These impacts aren’t going to happen 50 or 100 years from now. They are happening now, and they’re going to get worse in the next few years,” Riordan said.

According to David Ackerly, co-author of the report and dean of the College of Natural Resources, the report’s three main findings are related to sea level rise, wildfires and heat waves. The report states that in the last 100 years, the sea level in the Bay Area has risen 8 inches, adding that the sea level may rise by 3 meters by 2100.

Because of increasing temperatures, the frequency of wildfires has increased, Ackerly said. Andrew Jones, another co-author and deputy director of the CRI, said the area of California affected by wildfires is predicted to increase by 77 percent by 2100. Additionally, global warming will cause heat waves to become a public health risk, Ackerly said.

“High temperatures can be especially threatening to public health in places that are not prepared for them, particularly to vulnerable groups like the elderly and infants,” Ackerly said.

Jones said there are other important issues that climate change will affect, including a decreased water supply in the Bay Area. He explained that much of the Bay Area’s water supply comes from snow in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which, due to global warming, will fall as rain and result in a lack of reservoir water during the spring.

According to the report, there are ways in which humans can fight against the impacts of climate change. For example, Ackerly said building seawalls and restoring salt marshes can help combat rising sea levels.

“Individuals can do a lot, and we are not at the mercy of a changing climate,” Ackerly said.

Ackerly added that individuals can protect their property from wildfires by modifying their houses to comply with the newest building codes — making them more resistant to fires — and by managing vegetation around their properties.

Jones cited Sonoma County’s Regional Climate Protection Authority as an example of an initiative to fight the impacts of climate change. He said this allowed the county to have a central group coordinating efforts to battle climate change.

“Climate change affects many sectors of society,” Jones said. “There are major adaptation challenges across each of these sectors.”

Yao Huang covers research and ideas. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @Yhoneplus.”